Quinones' Green Lantern pencils and inks from Wednesday ComicsWhile some of us may be delighted by the biggest and the most popular in the world of comics, we all realize that for every popular book, writer or artist there has to be a beginning. While there are many ways to success with each story finding its own route, there is one attribute that can be found in each one: talent. Up & Coming is a regular feature at Newsarama.com that seeks out the next generation of comic creators and profiles them today.
Our subject for this installment of Up & Coming is artist Joe Quinones. I was introduced to his work by seeing his interpretations of the characters from Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim, and after finding his website we knew we had struck gold. Although his comics bibliography is short, the talent and enthusiasm shown in his work so far makes this writer believe he could be big.
Then I found out he's part of DC's big summer book, Wednesday Comics. Yeah. This interview was conducted on the day that book was announced.
Newsarama: Joe, thanks for agreeing to do this. Can you tell us what you do for a living right now?
Joe Quinones: Currently I'm splitting my time between work as a freelance comic artist and as an adjunct professor at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA.
NRAMA: Should I call you Professor Quinones? [laughs]
JQ: No, that's okay.
Quinones' Green LanternNRAMA: Okay, let's talk about that comic work. What do you have planned?
JQ: I do indeed. There's a few projects that are sort of in the wings with a couple different publishers right now, though at the moment I'm working on a Green Lantern story written by Kurt Busiek for DC comics. It's a component of the up and coming Wednesday Comics series that the company recently announced.
NRAMA: Just announced, Joe! I feel like I've wandered into something big here. Tell us, how did you end up on such a big project so early on?
JQ: It was sort of a prolonged process, actually. Mark [Chiarello, Wednesday Comics editor] had given me my start in the industry doing some work on the Teen Titans Go! series. I was supposed to do some more work for the title; doing covers or what not, when word passed down that the series was being cancelled. I had been a little bummed about that, as I was just beginning to grow a real appreciation for the characters (and there was no other immediate work for me following it!). Fortunately Mark is really great about keeping an eye out for the artists he employs. A little before the summer last year, he approached me about a cool new project he was wanting to put together. The project was the beginning of the Wednesday Comics series, which at the time had no artists or writers assigned to it, but he wanted to gauge my interest in it. I was of course drooling at the prospect.
NRAMA: There's no shame in that, Joe. Tell us more.
Quinones' Green Lantern samplesJQ: Shortly after I had flown out to Portland, Oregon to attend the indie 'Stumptown Comics Fest'. Kurt Busiek had been in attendance there, and was kind enough to stop by my table. Somehow he had heard of me, or seen my blog, and had some very nice things to say. Anyway, we exchanged info and kept in touch through the summer. Eventually I remembered about the project Mark had mentioned and told Kurt about it. From there a collaboration between the three of us slowly formed, and after waiting for a few green lights, the project started up. It's been a lot of fun, and, looking at all the heavy hitters involved in the project, I remain truly flattered that Mark thought to ask me to participate in the first place.
NRAMA: Fans are definitely looking forward to it, Joe. We'll talk to you and Kurt about it more in depth as that series gets closer.
You're on this big book very earlier in your comics career, so you have something going for you definitely. Do you have a dream project in mind to do someday?
JQ: Well, it already is a bit of a dream to be working in comics in the first place, and for DC comics, no less. It's a company whose universe I've always enjoyed, and that I've always wanted to contribute to in some way.
A dream project I envision would involve me working on a book for a publisher I hold in high regard, alongside a talented writer with an inspired story, while maintaining a fair amount of control over my artwork. Much of this has happened with this first project, which has been amazing. Kurt is, of course, an incredible writer, and a very amiable guy; it's an honor to be working with him.
DC comics and likewise art director Mark Chiarello have been very kind and generous towards me with this project, what I'm allowed to draw, and how much of it I'm able to do. I feel very lucky.
NRAMA: You're very early in your comics career, doing some work on Teen Titans Go! previously.. but what else have you done?Quinones' Teen Titans Go! artwork JQ: Well I'm still kind of breaking into the industry, so I haven't done too much stuff. I've done some recent cover work for Devil's Due - a four issue miniseries called Caped and an issue of Hack/Slash. Early last year I did a short Teen Titans Go! story with writer J. Torres about Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol. J. is actually the other writer I'm working with on those 'in the wings' projects. Outside of that, my other comics work has been self-published minis that I've sold at indie conventions like Stumptown, MoCCA and SPX.
NRAMA: Since you're an adjunct professor as mentioned earlier, I can assume you have a degree in art. What can you tell us about that?
JQ: I went to the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, where I graduated with a B.F.A. in Illustration in 2003. It was a really wonderful experience; beyond learning a great deal in terms of formal art concerns, as well as storytelling methods and ability, there was a very strong artistic community that had formed. It's a bond that has endured several years after my time there ended. My graduating class was chock full of comics artists, many of whom were friends, and all of whom have seen large successes in the industry over the past six years. Together we form a bit of a network of free critiques and passed along art gigs. We're like a comics-specific analog craigslist.
NRAMA: What initially prompted you to get into art?
JQ: Largely the blame rests with my folks. My mom always likes to talk about this one drawing of Fred Flintstone I'd drawn from memory when I was 4 years old or so. She likes to boast that it looked 'just like the cartoon' (it didn't) and from then on, she knew I was going to be an artist. She and my dad were endlessly encouraging throughout my childhood - entering me into this contest then the next, enrolling me in various art classes, and so on. I had already had a passion to make art since a very young age, but their support gave me the confidence to pursue it as a career. It's a good thing too, because I'm not really much good at anything else. Well, maybe Karaoke...ah, I love those sweet, sweet slow jams (I'm looking at you, Boyz II Men).
NRAMA: [laughs] I'm more a Bell Biv Devoe kind of guy, but yeah.
JQ: [laughs] Anyway, I owe them (my parents, NOT Boyz II Men).
NRAMA: Before we go, I wanted to bring up the artwork that initially brought you to my attention -- your series of Scott Pilgrim character portraits. What led you to do that, and what was the response like?JQ: I love Scott Pilgrim!! That Bryan Lee O'Malley is one smart guy. He has simultaneously tapped into all the branches of nerdiness I subscribe to, packaging them neatly into one endlessly enjoyable series. Beyond the characters exploding into coins, and delivery girls trained in the art of ninjitsu, lies a simpler story about love and heartbreak, told though a diverse and very well realized cast of characters. It's that cast that really sells the book for me and I wanted to pay homage to a few of my favorites with those character portraits. I am after all, a fanboy at heart. I love reading comics just as much as I love drawing them. I find that when I'm between jobs, or with some free time, it's a fun little exercise doing these character drawings. It's a good way for me to keep loose in my drawing, and to do some experimenting with my inking or coloring.
Beyond loving drawing characters, it's endlessly pleasurable for me to re-imagine the characters I already know and love with my own stylistic stamp on them.
As for response to the SP drawings, it was great. I think I maybe turned some people on to the series who hadn't heard of it before, and likewise, a lot of people became aware of me and my artwork by means of the drawings being linked on various sites. A big thank you goes out to Mr. O' Malley for that.
For more of Quinones' work, visit his blog