WWC Floorbuzz: X-Men Artist Mike Choi
Talking to X-artist Mike Choi
X-Men fans may be noticing a new face around these parts.
Putting his unique stamp on the X-Men universe in his recent work with Ed Brubaker on Uncanny X-Men, Mike Choi is now working on four issues of the new X-Force comic with co-writers Chris Yost and Craig Kyle beginning with issue #7. His clean lines and cinematic designs have landed him a Marvel exclusive contract and a lot of attention from fans.
But what some people might not realize is that it's actually two new faces at Marvel. Choi comes as a package deal with his colorist, Sonia Oback. During their run on Witchblade for Top Cow Comics, they developed a unique style that landed both of them at Marvel in the middle of the X-Universe.
As Newsarama walked the floor at Wizard World Chicago, we found Choi signing for his fans at the Top Cow booth and talked to him about his work and how he's developing as a storyteller.
Newsarama: You're finishing up a run on Uncanny X-Men with Ed Brubaker. How was it working on the series?
Mike Choi: As soon as I got the project, I was excited. It's an absolute honor working with Ed. Of course, that "honor" feeling fades away, 'cause it's Ed and he's so cool. Eddy B! [laughs] But yeah, I had a lot of fun on it. He actually let me contribute a lot. He kept things specific where it needed to be, but very free and open in other place. I have a feeling he trusts me a lot. One of the things I tell people is the fact that I turned a four-panel page that an Eisner winner wrote into a nine panel page. I talked to him briefly about it, but I didn't tell him the extent that I was going to do it. But he was totally cool with it. He loved it. And I think that kind of relationship is really cool to have with a writer, and that's what made it the most fun for me.
NRAMA: Are you sinking your teeth into X-Force yet?
MC: I'm working on the character stuff first and foremost. I've had the script for a few days, and I'll start working out the boards next.
NRAMA: By "character stuff," do you mean you're getting to spend some time on sketches and playing around with the characters?
MC: Yeah. And I've actually never done that before. Usually, I just go right into the page. But this time, Phil Jimenez told me that a cool trick to do is to try to get into the individual characters and that would add a lot to the storytelling.
NRAMA: Any example you can give us for what you're doing to prepare for X-Force?
MC: Well, X-Force has Wolverine and Warpath in it. And I want to really show the difference in their physical sizes. That's something you can really play around with. I guess this is shameful, but I never really thought about it like that in the past. I would just draw Wolverine and Warpath, you know? I would just put the characters on a page. But it's important to think about something as simple as Wolverine can't look at Warpath eye-to-eye.
In three years of doing this, I hadn't really thought it through. But someone doing a comic book should be thinking about that. So when I think about the characters and how they would interact and who they are as characters, and then I get a chance to sketch that out a little, it really adds dimension. And I'm doing it with X-Force. I realize now that it was something I appreciated in other people's stuff, but I never really caught on. I never consciously thought, this is how they did it.
NRAMA: You worked with Craig and Chris before on X-23. Excited to be working with them again?
MC: Oh yeah! Sonia and I worked with them on X-23, and that was our first Marvel project. So we love working with those guys. Whatever trust I have with Ed, and the relationship I have with him, it's double with those guys. It got to the point where we really trusted each other and they knew what I liked doing. And they're really cool guys on top of it.
NRAMA: Let's talk about your style. You don't use an inker?
MC: No, our work's not inked. It's straight from the pencils. Sonia's been my girlfriend for five years and we always work together. So what we say is, give us a script, and we'll turn it around for you in-house.
NRAMA: So you're a package deal?
MC: Absolutely. And if you see our stuff -- I can't do anything without her. I mean, in so many ways, I can't do anything without her.
NRAMA: How would you describe your style? Is there are certain look you're going for?
MC: I like to draw clean. I basically don't do any blacks or rendering. I like to say I give Sonia a coloring book. I think my personal impact on whatever we do is storytelling. The people I really look up to are John Cassaday and Frank Quitely. Their styles might be really different, but they both are so good with storytelling. I'd like to say Sonia and I have something unique. I think our relationship is unique in the industry. I've molded the way I draw to the way she colors, and she's kind of molded the way she colors to the way I draw. And I think that's unique in the industry.
NRAMA: It seems like there are a lot of teams where certain artists only work with certain colorists.
MC: I have no choice! [laughs] No, I love working together with her. We've developed a style that really fits both of us. And you do see a lot more established teams. I think that's really good. It adds consistency, and the more trust there is between collaborators, the more they can do as a team. I think if you don't really trust them, you try to do all the work. And I think that limits the possibilities of what you can do with your art.
NRAMA: You were recently named as a Marvel exclusive along with Sonia. After these four issues of X-Force, do you know what's next?
MC: There are some ideas being passed around. I actually originally signed for a short-term agreement, but now we've made it a longer agreement with Marvel. So now we can think of things in terms of what I can really sink my teeth into.
Ed said in an interview -- although I'm not going to say anything concrete -- but Sonia and I might be on a rotating basis on Uncanny or X-Force. Hopefully it will be one of those two books, but it's definitely going to be an X-book.
NRAMA: Is there anything outside the X-universe you'd like to do? Any kind of dream book?
MC: I would love to do something with Top Cow. I've always talked about, with Marc Silvestri, I've always wanted to do a creator-owned book. But I also would love to do the Inhumans. But I think drawing the X-Men is really, really close. I want to draw the Inhumans for the same exact reason -- there's are such varied characters and a huge variety of things they can do. And that makes it even more shameful that I didn't play around with the characters and I just drew 'em. But I just enjoy drawing things that are fun to work on. And it doesn't really matter what it is as long as the writing is good. I've always maintained that. It could be Captain Zucchini, I don't care as long as Chris is writing it or Craig is writing it or Ed is writing it. As long as it's good, I don't really care what the property is.
NRAMA: It's all about the story, huh?
MC: It is! That's the way it is for me as a reader, so it's what's most important to me as an artist. I'm a huge fan of comic books. I just bought like 300 bucks worth of trades. I just want to do something other people would read. Something other people would read and enjoy. I just read the last Astonishing X-Men trade and the last Y: The Last Man trade, and the first Umbrella Academy trade, and each one was great in their own way. I started tearing up reading Astonishing X-Men on the plane. And people are looking at me thinking, what can he possibly be reading that is making him cry? And they look at the cover, and it's X-Men and Cyclops is on the cover. But a book that can do that to me? I'd love to do something where I could do that to someone else.