After a brief respite from the adventures of Marvel’s Norse demigod Thor, artist Esad Ribic is returning to Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder series in February and he’s got a lot on his mind. The thirteen year veteran of Marvel has worked on virtually every major character in the House of Ideas’ library, but this new arc, “The Last Days of Midgard,” offers him some new challenges, new opportunities, and a chance to reunite with an old friend: Galactus.
In February, Ribic returns in Thor: God of Thunder #19.NOW to work with Aaron as Thor attempts to save the Earth itself from environmental disaster from a classic threat from Marvel’s past: the Roxxon Company. Headed up by a “ruthless” new CEO dubbed the Minotaur. Thor’s faced monsters, gods and interdimensional deities – but does he have what it takes to fight a cutthroat multinational corporation? And intertwined with that tale is another of a future Thor fighting over the crumbling remains of Earth against the planet’s biggest threat: Galactus.
Newsarama spoke with the Croatian artist about his work on Thor: God of Thunder and his epic imprint he’s left on the character, while also delving into the artist’s ambitions for the character, the title, and on his own in comics. Ribic goes into detail explaining how he works to draw Galactus and his huge scale in relation to other characters in this upcoming arc, and talks about designing a new character he and Aaron are bringing to the Marvel U.
Newsarama: Thanks for doing this, Esad. Before we dig into Thor: God of Thunder, can you tell us what you’re working on today?
Esad Ribic: I'm actually finishing the first scene of Thor: God of Thunder #19; still tweaking it to add more variety to the style this time. Every new arc is a different type of story so I'm going with slightly different look.
Nrama: People may not realize this, but you were born in Zagreb, Croatia. Can you tell us about where you live now and what the comics and art community is like in your area?
Ribic: Yeah, I'm living just outside of Zagreb now I find the small town dynamics more to my liking these days. There's a lot of artists here… comic artists too! Some of them you might know: Igor Kordey, Goran Parlov, Dalibor Talajic and Goran Sudzuka are all local. My colorist on Thor: God of Thunder, Ive Svorcina, lives nearby too! I do try to steer the topics away from comics when we get together, if I can.
Nrama: We’re all comics talk here, so let’s get to it. In February you’re reuniting with Jason Aaron on Thor: God of Thunder #19.NOW. You’ve done some major work since your first run on the book elsewhere, so what brought you back for a second run?
Ribic: Jason's writing, of course!
Nrama: Straight to the point! Your previous run was set outside of Earth primarily, but from what I’ve read this new arc is back on Earth and dealing with environmental issues. For you, does this change of setting offer new opportunities or challenges?
Ribic: Yes, as I stated already, I’m going to change the style a little; more textures, occasional mixed technique and such. I'm talking to Ive about changing his workflow too; basically nudging him more towards Painter and away from Photoshop. I want to make it look more earthy- opposed to the cosmic look we had in the first arc. Every opportunity is a challenge though, so we'll see how this set of opportunities is going to work.
Nrama: Speaking of opportunities and challenges, for this new “Last Days of Midgard” arc you’re getting to design some new characters, including a CEO known as the Minotaur. Do you enjoy that part of the process – designing new characters to use and propagate to the Marvel U?
Ribic: It's fun to do that. Doing the right character design takes away a lot of potential problems, but it’s even better if it fits in with your concept specifically. That makes it harder for it to transpose successfully to some other book, but we’ll see.
Nrama: In addition to drawing new characters, you’re also doing an old friend of yours, Galactus, who you illustrated in Silver Surfer: Requiem. Are there any challenges or uniqueness in drawing him, due to his size, or how he’s position or just plan because of that Kirby design that’s stood the test of time?
Ribic: Well, sheer size and antiquity! I spend ages doing fine tonal gradations in Silver Surfer: Requiem to add the scale to him. With Thor: God of Thunder though, it's going to be the colorist's job. I will have a lot of work just placing him in same frame with other characters. It's easy at first, but becomes pretty tedious when you run out of obvious solutions. I redesigned him a bit, and I want to have him look more science fiction as a contrast to everything else.
Nrama: Watching comics every month I notice you’re one of the few comic artists who almost always does covers for their own book. Some people are better suited at covers, while others are more sequential and publishers have others to tap to get the covers done. Have you put much thought into your place as someone able to handle both the demands of doing covers and doing interiors equally?
Ribic: Before starting my career in the United States, I was mostly doing commercial illustration, book covers, magazine illustration, animation backgrounds, and such --all painted. So, when I started working here, my portfolio was full of that stuff. Editors knew I could paint the covers, so they approved me doing covers too; right from the start. It was harder convincing people to do painted interiors, however.
Nrama: This next question is long overdue, but I’ve never been able to interview you before to ask. You’ve been working actively at Marvel since 2000 when you came at the end of Joe Casey’s X-Men: Children Of The Atom series. You’ve done some great work in that time, but you never really “broke out” as a prominent artist for the general public until 2007’s Silver Surfer: Requiem and then your work on covers and interiors on Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run in 2011. For you internally, did you feel a switch in 2007-2011, or has it all been the same for you since 2000?
Ribic: Most important moment for me was being able to convince higher-ups to let me do painted book after couple of years of fill-ins. I realized that continuity books are not for me and wanted to get into then new-ish Marvel Knights imprint. It wouldn't be possible without Axel Alonso, then newly-acquired ex Vertigo editor(with whom i have worked there before moving to Marvel). We did Loki with writer Rob Rodi (another of our ex Vertigo cohorts!), which was pretty popular in Europe. And that allowed us to do more of those, including Silver Surfer: Requiem.
I decided to move back into regular continuity when it became harder and harder to paint those books. I suffered a 'painter's block', I guess. I did do a steady stream of covers for some popular books, so I guess I was mostly perceived as cover guy by general ordinance. Most of them don't have any interest for non-continuity books.
Nrama: Like I said you’ve been a 13 year veteran at Marvel, but even then there’s characters you haven’t worked on yet and creators you haven’t worked with. What are your goals for yourself in comics and art going forward after all you’ve done?
Ribic: I don't have strong preferences for any character per-se; I see them as tools to tell a story. So as long as I find the concept of a story meaningful, I'll do it. I want to work with couple of guys I already worked with(that's a clue!), but in better circumstances than we had first time around.
I want to expand more out of this kind of comics and do other types of work occasionally. But I like doing the Marvel books I'm doing, so i guess I'll do a lot of back and forth in the future. Some personal stuff too!