Artist Brandon Peterson came to comics in the heady days of the 1990s, but fans of his work have been missing out these past few years as he took a hiatus from doing comics interiors in 2008. He’s kept himself in the industry becoming Marvel’s busiest cover artists, but for almost three years he hasn’t set foot inside of a comic. But as of 2012, Peterson is back with a vengeance. The artist recently drew the one-off Uncanny X-Men #4 and stepped in for Esad Ribic drawing the majority of Ultimate Comics Ultimates #5 and Ultimate Comics Ultimates #6.
Peterson got his professional start in comics in the early 90s and quickly caught the eye of Marvel, who thrust him into the spotlight drawing Uncanny X-Men in 1992 – his first ongoing title, and just two years into the industry. Peterson worked in and around the X-titles for two years before jumping ship to be Marc Silvestri’s hand-picked artist to draw the Cyberforce spin-off book Codename: Strykeforce. Peterson became a trusted part of Image’s Top Cow imprint, working on virtually all of the publishers titles at the time and even doing his own book, Arcanum. In the late 90s he went freelance, bouncing around comics for a few years before enlisting with then-upstart company Crossgen. Peterson drew one of their key launch titles Mystic and found himself VP of Special Projects and Crossgen’s Art Director, leading the entire company’s art direction for four years. Seeing the writing on the wall in 2003, Peterson left Crossgen before they went bankruptcy and re-enlisted with Marvel. During his latest tenure, he worked on a number of high-profile limited series like Ultimate Vision with Mark Millar, Ultimate Extinction with Warren Ellis and Strange with J. Michael Straczynski. But in 2008 he stepped back from drawing comics for a well-earned break from comics – his first in nearly twenty years.
But now he’s back. This month, Peterson does his most high-profile work yet in Avengers #24.1 with writer Brian Michael Bendis. Newsarama talked with the Tampa-based artist about his full-fledged return to comics, his yearly artbooks, and the big projects he and Bendis have planned next.Newsarama: First off, we’re glad to have you back doing actual comics. Can you tell us what you’re working on today?
Brandon Peterson: I just finished up a cover for Wolverine #303, I think it might be an alternate but I’m not 100% sure. It’s Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting, so drawing that is way better than having to do real work for a living. I’m just tweaking the colors a bit on it now. I am also getting ready for the summer convention season with a new sketchbook and prints. This year I will be doing an official Marvel sketchbook, which will be some of the best stuff I’ve done ‘remastered’ and worked on more using what I know how to do today, plus some new never seen before Marvel stuff. I am also getting ready to do some more X-Men stuff as well, but the next big thing for me is several really awesome Avengers projects I will be doing with Brian Michael Bendis later this year. I can’t talk about them yet, but they are going to be the most attention I’ve had in years.
Nrama: We already know the first of those Bendis projects, you doing Avengers #24.1 coming out this month. But before we get to that, I have to ask about your return to comics after years of doing strictly covers. You’ve been on a tear recently, drawing Uncanny X-Men #4 and a majority of Ultimate Comics Ultimates #5 and #6. What led you to jumping back into it full force like this?Peterson: I dropped out of interior work the last few years due to many things, at first it was just burnout after working non-stop for almost 20 years in comics, but then my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That was really hard for me and my family, and when he passed last summer I found myself really wanting to get back into regular work. I let Marvel know I was ready to return, and they were awesome and started getting me work after the summer conventions were over. I have had lots of great stuff on my plate since then. It’s important for me to get back to regular interior work to remind people I am still around and because it feels right now for me. It’s been a rough couple of years but I am feeling up to the task now.
Nrama: And people who have seen your 2012 can vouch for you there. What was it like taking that breather and focusing exclusively on covers?
Peterson: One of the great things about working in this industry is you can often sort of set your own pace. When I first started tapering off my interior work, it was important for me to just take a breather from it before I burned out creatively. 2012 is my 20th year working in comics full time, and I couldn’t recall a time I didn’t have an issue on my drawing table needing me to get it done immediately. The cover work during the last few years allowed me to keep drawing while I focused on other parts of my life. I had some personal life-altering health issues to get under control, and then when my Dad got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, our family focus went to him. I was able to be there for him through the worst parts of his illness until he passed, and it was really important to me to be there for him for that. Marvel was really awesome during all this time, they said just let us know when you are ready to get back to work.Nrama: Our condolences to your family for your father.
Your recent issue of Uncanny X-Men saw you and writer Kieron Gillen show the world from a villain’s point of view – a Phalanx member who was being experimented on by Mr. Sinister. First off, what appealed to you to sign up for this done-in-one issue?
Peterson: Nick Lowe is one of my favorite editors ever to work with and when he offered the issue I was very interested. I read the script and what Kieron wrote was great. I wrote back to Nick and Kieron that I saw what they were trying to accomplish and that I hoped I was up to the task as it was an amazing one-shot that people were going to be talking about. Nick and Kieron were very supportive and I just tried to do a decent job. Kieron Gillen has got to be one of the top six guys writing comics today. He is intimidatingly talented.Nrama: The book featured the Phalanx, and you have a tendency to be drawn to, or placed on, books with a real technical bent to them. I thought it might be just editors liking your work in that bent, but seeing your links page on your website I can tell that you yourself like technical marvels. Can you talk about that, from drawing it to becoming specialized in that?
Peterson: Growing up, my first love was science fiction, even before I was introduced to comic books. I was a Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica kid (yes I am that old) who was doodling robots in his notebooks and building spaceships with his Legos. I have always like computers and electronics since getting my Commodore 64 as a teenager, and when I went to art school I got my minor in computer graphics learning programs like 3D Studio and Photoshop when they were versions 1 or 2. I’ve built every computer system I have used since the early 90s, and I have watched as comics went from shooting separations with room-sized stat cameras to digital pre-production, when colors went from markers and color speccing to the full blown digital painting colorists do today
As the technology has become more accessible, I have found it easier and easier to use it in my work. Nowadays, I use my computer as much as I use a pencil and ink. I usually start a page by laying it out in Photoshop. If I have a complex environment or technical element on the page, I will use a 3D program like 3DS Max to create it, and then I will add those elements to my layout. I print these elements in light blue onto a big sheet of Bristol board on my oversized Epson printer and from there I really just draw with ink the finished page that I then scan and send to Marvel. I still don’t do things fully digitally; I find it makes the art too cold and dead. It’s important for me to still do the actual art on the art board in pen and ink.Nrama: Speaking of technical marvels and robots, your upcoming Avengers #24.1 promises to focus on the android Avenger the Vision. You have a history with him – or her rather – when you drew the miniseries Ultimate Vision back in 2007. Was getting a second shot at Vision a reason for you to do this book?
Peterson: Definitely. I feel I did some of my best work ever on the Ultimate Vision book, but I also felt I went too far into the digital side on it as well. I have always been drawn to the more sci-fi and fantasy elements in comics, as I really didn’t read comics until I was a teenager, and by then I was heavily into fantasy and sci-fi. My favorite characters at Marvel because of that have been Dr. Strange, Thor, Iron Man, and characters like the Vision. Drawing the technology in the Avengers #24.1 was a lot of fun, but I don’t want people to get the idea that it’s a sci-fi story. The script is actually very emotional, as it deals with Vision coming to grips with what happened to him and confronting a lot of people in his search for answers.
Nrama: What’s it like to step back into interiors and be placed on one of Marvel’s most high-profile books, doing such a unique book as the Point One issue?
Peterson: It’s great, it’s a little intimidating, but as I have drawn so many issues the last few months it feels like I have my artistic sea legs back under me and I didn’t screw it up. Honestly, all these opportunities are Marvel really looking out for me after what happened. A lot of the credit goes to David Bogart, who has really been great giving me a chance to get back into the game as fast as I have, and to the great editors like Nick Lowe, Mark Paniccia and Tom Brevoort, and the great group of hard-working assistant editors in those offices. My job is just not to screw up too badly.
Nrama: Switching subjects now, I ’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few of your annual art books, the most recent being Illuminations 2011. Can you tell us about this artbook series, if there’s any still available, and plans for one in 2012?
Peterson: There might be some copies left of my previous books at stuartngbooks.com or at budplant.com but I am all sold out of all my previous yearly artbooks, I just make enough to usually last the summer con season, and so Illuminations 2011 is all gone. This year I will be doing the Marvel artbook, and a few new exclusive Marvel prints. If you like my artbooks, I think you’ll like this year’s book. I am tentatively titling it Marvelworks Remastered.
Nrama: I could let you go at that, but with your full-scale assault on comics here in 2012 I wanted to ask one more thing. What would be a dream comics project for you? Is it a certain character, a certain writer you’d like to work with, or returning to perhaps writing and drawing such as in Arcanum?
Peterson: Honestly, I am doing my dream job every day I work in comics. I have been extraordinary lucky in working as long as I have with as many talented people as I have. At Marvel, my dream job would probably be writing and doing all the art for a Thor or Iron Man miniseries, something where I could really let my fantasy and sci-fi roots take hold. I’d just love to be able to do something 100% me on those classic characters. I do have some creator-owned ideas bouncing around my head as well, my good buddy Frank Cho is always telling me to do something with them. But those are more long term, as my plate is pretty full nowadays with Marvel work. Being too busy with great work is a pretty nice problem to have.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!