David Marquez has been on a steady rise at Marvel since making his debut on Secret Warriors in 2011. He became the alternating artist on the high-profile Ultimate Comics Spider-Man — starring one of the most-publicized new comic book characters of the past couple of years, Miles Morales — and teamed further with writer Brian Michael Bendis for a three-issue stint on All-New X-Men earlier this year.
With Sara Pichelli moving to Guardians of the Galaxy, Marquez is now the main artist on the series, as of the freshly released Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #23. It's a significant issue in that the story picks up a year later from the previous issue, a significant 12 months both emotionally and physically for the book's young cast, as Miles and his friends have now moved from age 13 to 14. As Bendis told us last month, "Everyone knows the difference between 13 and 14 is pretty gigantic."
Marquez — who's also illustrating the graphic novel The Joyners in 3D for Archaia, expected out this fall — talked to us about his approach to aging the book's cast, designing incoming guest stars Cloak & Dagger (on the cover of June's issue #24, interior images seen throughout the article), and the top-secret part he has to play in next month's Age of Ultron #10, the close of that series and the Marvel Universe debut of former Spawn character Angela.
Newsarama: David, with Sara Pichelli transitioning to Guardians of the Galaxy, you're now the main artist of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man — how does it feel to now be firmly established on a series you've been working on for a while?
David Marquez: I love this book, man. Of all of the titles that I could start establishing my name on, I couldn't imagine a better one than Ultimate Spider-Man, just because I really respect what it's trying to do within the industry, and I love that people have responded so positively to it.
Especially now that Sara has been able to move on and start doing the Guardians of the Galaxy stuff, I like that I get to take some ownership now of this title where I'm not following in her footsteps quite so much. Especially with the one-year jump, I have this opportunity to really make these characters my own. Yes, they're still predicated largely on her initial designs, but I can now decide, "How do these characters look different, now that a year has gone by?" It's all my choice, and I can move forward with it however I want to, not being so nervous about the original artist coming back on and having to work with what I've changed.
Nrama: That one-year jump seems like kind of a tricky thing to nail — one year can be very significant in the ages of these kids, but at the same time you don't want to go too far, because they're still only 14. How you approach the redesign, and figuring out the right balance to strike with how far to progress the characters?
Marquez: I've always drawn people, I've always drawn faces. I've developed the ability to draw people that look age-appropriate, or look relatively consistent from panel to panel. Many artists can do this, but it's one of the things that I'm very proud that I do pretty well.
Part of all of that is developing an eye for what specific shapes or contours make Miles look like Miles, or make Cyclops look like Cyclops. A big part of that is just understanding, "How does the shape of a 10-year-old look different than the shape of a 20-year-old?" and then making very, very conscious decisions about which of the character designs I was using to make Miles look like Miles that I'm going to change — in very subtle ways — to make him look more like a 20-year-old and less like a 10-year-old.
There's also the goal of, "How did I feel as a 14-year-old versus as a 12-year-old?" I was very angsty. I'm trying to bring across something of what I remember about being a teenager, and invest that in each of the characters, as well. Miles, throughout all of issue #23, and definitely through #24 and #25 as well, he's still brooding. A big part of that needs to come across in the art, and I'm trying to drag all of that into my head as I'm drawing.
Nrama: So did you design Ultimate Cloak and Dagger, as well?
Marquez: Yeah, definitely. That's one of the big things I was really, really excited about for this arc. I always loved the character designs. I read a decent amount of their comics as well. It's kind of unfortunate that their costumes are arguably what's most memorable about them. With the story that we're telling, we actually get to establish them as more than just cool costumes.
I got super, super excited getting to design them for the Ultimate Universe. Justin Ponsor and I have talked about this before — there's a certain look to the Ultimate superhero costumes that is different from the Marvel 616 stuff. The Bryan Hitch, leather and zippers kind of look, in my mind, that is Ultimate Universe, as oppose to what we see in 616 — more like spandex.
For Dagger — because Cloak is just a big black cloak with some smoke coming off him — two things; one, I wanted to evoke that kind of Bryan Hitch-y, Ultimate, practical costume design; while also just covering up her f*cking navel. There's no reason why she needs to be split down the middle. I wanted to treat the characters with a little bit more respect now that I think that, in general, comics have come a long way since the mid-to-late '80s and the early '90s as far as what's considered appropriate.
Nrama: One last thing I wanted to ask about, and there's probably nothing you can say about it at this point, but you've been announced as drawing a section of Age of Ultron #10, joining an already-impressive roster of artists on that issue — Carlos Pacheco, Brandon Peterson, Bryan Hitch, Joe Quesada, Alex Maleev and Butch Guice.
Marquez: When people see it, they'll be like, "Oh, I get it."
I was really excited when they approached me about doing it. I very specifically have said absolutely nothing to anybody it, other than, I'm one of many artists, so it's not as if I'm drawing tons and tons of pages in there, but what I got to draw there was a sh*t ton of fun, and I think people will freak the frick out whenever they see it.