Kevin Wada might be considered a newcomer for some, but he's been making the art rounds for years now with his high-end fashion takes on characters from the X-Men to the Salior Scouts on various social media platforms. Wada recently became the cover artist for Marvel's She-Hulk, alongside doing a handful of variant covers from publishers, including Adventure Time for BOOM!. We briefly spoke with Wada about his fashion influences, having to take a crash Shulkie course, and, characters he'd love to work on further down his career.
Newsarama: So, Kevin, can you tell us a little bit of information about your education and designing background?
Kevin Wada: I come from a very traditional Illustration background. My school, California College of the Arts, really focused on traditional illustration - you work in print, you send out mailers, you tell a story in a single image. It wasn't until after school that I really embraced fashion and fashion illustration. I feel a bit rusty in terms of narrative illustration, to be quite honest, which has kept me from even thinking about tackling comic interiors. They make me shudder. But it could be an exciting new adventure.
Nrama: What was the primary factor into moving from illustration to fashion, if any?
Wada: The only factor at play there was an attempt to keep myself motivated. There was never a conscious decision to become a fashion illustrator, it was more of a "what do I draw that I love to draw that will keep me producing work?" It tended to be fashion oriented things, and the more I embraced it, the more I realized it was a direction I would really like to take.
Nrama: Were you a life-long comic fan, or were comics something you found later in life?
Wada: I sort of grew up around comic fans and, thus, have always kind of felt like a satellite orbiting Planet Comics. I grew up with X-men and Spider-Man in comics and television (as well as a lot of Batman/Superman animated series), but I was never a hardcore devotee. As I got older, everyone told me, "Oh, your work looks like comics. You should get into that." Which is sort of ironic because back then, my work did look more like comic book artwork, and now that I'm actually in the industry, I think my work excites people because it doesn't look like traditional comic book art.
Nrama: You were featured quite a bit on sites like Project Rooftop, which primarily features redesigns of established characters, so dive into a piece like the X-Women piece above
: What was your thought going into each character?
Wada: I love Project Rooftop so much and I was amazed when I was featured. That piece was actually a commission, and I don't think there was too much art directing by the commissioner. I was very excited by the runways coming out around that time - I think it was a lot of Gucci and Armani Prive. Platform heels were in, and I always love a strong shoulder and a synched waist. For Emma, it was obviously about being sultry, and for Ororo it was about being regal. I tried to add little touches to callback to each character's personality or design.
Nrama: Right now you're working on the covers to Marvel's She-Hulk title. Were you familiar with the character before taking the job, or did you need a crash course?
Wada: I definitely needed a crash course on Shulkie. I knew a little, maybe the bare minimum about the character, but once I was educated I really embraced her. She's fun, charming, witty, smart, and ferocious. The history of the character is so interesting and she's had so many different facets to her personality that really help make her seem well-rounded and complete. Helping to realize her current look has been so much fun for me and I definitely try to be considerate of how to represent her as a modern, professional woman and superhero.
Nrama: It seems to me you lean toward more the Alexander McQueen and Versace style of design, but when you're constructing a cover, composition-wise, who would you consider your top comic artist influences?
Wada: Composition-wise, it could be argued, that all my characters just stand against white backgrounds [laughs]. I try not to default to that too much, and certainly not in my professional work. I always fight between challenging myself with more complex perspective, or embracing my habit of flat, flat, flat. I guess Sienkiewicz would be an obvious influence. His use of traditional mediums in the comic world keeps me motivated and excited and he loves playing around with space.
Nrama: You're one of the first names in comics when I think of the phrase "Tumblr generation", meaning you essentially used Tumblr for your self-promotion and to showcase your portfolio. When did your first notice that your work had gone "viral" so to speak?
Wada: I remember realizing it during my first APE convention here in San Francisco. I was boothing with a friend, Max Wittert, whom I had collaborated on with the X-fashions lineups we had done back in 2011. People started coming up to our table excited to have found us, and mentioning that they had seen our illustrations online on various websites. I had no idea that the illustrations had gone viral and it really showed me the power of the internet. I was amazed.
Nrama: Now you mention you feel rusty with story narratives, should you dive back into (or tip toe slowly into, as it were) sequentials, who is a character you'd love to tackle down the line?
Wada: I'd like to try my hand at Storm or Elektra, perhaps. Maybe even She-hulk. The X-men or Batman would be a lot of fun. Something with a lot of variety would be nice, as I get tired of drawing the same thing over and over quite easily.