Inferno may not be high on the list of summer vacation spots, but up-and-coming artist Javier Garron is enjoying his time on the Secret Wars tie-in book. Working with writer Dennis Hopeless, Garron has charted a last-ditch survival mission for Colossus and a rag-tag crew of surviving X-Men into the fiery heart of a hellish Manhattan to save Illyana Rasputin.
With Inferno #4 due out September 23, Garron talked with Newsarama about his long history as a reader of the X-Men, from chasing down issues in his native Spain to learning much of his craft from the all-star art team on the original Age of Apocalypse. Garron also looked ahead to his next project, Star-Lord, which explores the origins of Peter Quill.
Newsarama: Javier, in your work on Inferno, you redesigned several characters, including demonic versions of Nightcrawler and Colossus. Was there a design that wound up being a particular favorite of yours?
Javier Garron: Redesigning characters is always a gift, but a complex one! It is a blessing, an honor to be given the chance to add something, no matter how small, to the legend of these iconic characters. And because of that it is also a responsibility, you feel the pressure to push yourself further and meet the expectations. The X-Men are some of the most beloved comic characters of all time! They have strong, holy foundations set by the greatest names who ever worked in the comic book field. So, yeah, quite a challenge! But, no sweat at all, it was amazingly fun!
Dennis Hopeless, one of the best writers in the business these days, defined what the story needed from each character so well that it made the work so much easier. And getting to the point (I digress a lot!), it’s difficult to pick your favorite son! My heart is split. Definitely I think the BAMF Dragon, a.k.a. Hellbeast Nightcrawler, is a strandout. It’s menacing, slender, weird yet familiar somehow. I think there's a story by itself looking at it. It feels like Nightcrawler with those colors and the bamfs, but at the same time you see the demonic, beast touches, the danger signs in it.
Other one would be our dear Kindergarten Cable, but a great deal of it comes from the character itself, which in concept is just genius. A young Nathan Summers, dressed by his mother's likes but, rebel as he is, then adapted to his love of big guns. And of course there is a third one, but if you haven't finished reading the series then I can't talk about it! An iconic character changes forever, and the mutant universe will never be the same!
Nrama: Inferno draws from a classic point in the X-Men’s history. Are you a longtime X-Men fan?
Garron: Absolutely! I grew up in a very small town in the south of Spain. Only certain things could be found there, and not everywhere. Depending on which shop you went to, you could find only certain comic books. Looking back, it seems I was like a Pokemon Trainer searching for Pikachus, you know. I started collecting when I was 13 years old, little by little. A year or so after, that I met a neighbor who was a hardcore X-Men fan already by then. He had everything, and it was like the gates of heaven opening for me. From walking the town from one end to the other and getting maybe two or three comic books, finding nothing in public libraries at the time, suddenly I had access to a massive collection and a friend who would act as a guide on what to read first and what to read after that. “Second Genesis”, “Dark Phoenix Saga”, “God Loves-Man Kills”, “Fall of the Mutants”, “Asgardian Wars” ... and of course, “Inferno”. What a hellishly fun oddness. Stories so beautifully crafted, and so amazingly illustrated, it's impossible not to fall in love with comics in the company of names such as Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, Jim Lee... (and please forgive me for not mentioning the rest of artist gods who worked on those titles, it would take me hour to name them all!).
I came on board collecting just when Age of Apocalypse started, and I was instantly blown away by the epic scope and dramatic size of the event. When I started drawing (as soon as I could hold a pencil in my hands) all I did were Donald Duck and Disney characters, but by the time I started with the mutants I just started struggling with human anatomy (never ending battle!), and the impact all the artists working in “Age of Apocalypse” had in the way I conceive comics art still is present: Joe Madureira, Chris Bachalo, Adam and Andy Kubert, Steve Skroce, Steve Epting, Salvador Larroca, Carlos Pacheco... Best A-Team in the universe! Who wouldn't dream of joining those ranks one day?
Nrama: How do you feel about the decision to make Madelyne Pryor’s costume more conservative prior to the launch of Inferno?
Garron: When the note came, all I could think about was how to fix the art that was already done, like the cover. I was thinking about it only in work terms. Luckily, our two top-of-the-game color artists, Chris Sotomayor (interior art) and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. (covers), were faster than a bullet and fixed all that before I could finish saying "Inferno." Later on I began reading about the so called controversy, but I think it was something very insignificant exaggerated by certain medias, trying to make a big buzz about it. You are literally the first person to ask me about that. I think Dennis Hopeless got asked maybe once, and as far as I know, nobody asked Marc Silvestri, the original designer of the character, about anything. If it was such a big deal, wouldn't it be mandatory to ask all the talent involved? In terms of proper, fact based, well done journalism, and if it was a real issue to deal with, I mean. It is really meaningless, speaking of story and character, to cover or not to cover Madelyne's breasts. Alex Summers was as naked as she was in the original story, and our Goblin King is even less covered than Pryor and nobody has complained about that. Would you think the "New 52" Superman costume is more conservative in some degree than the previous ones for keeping Clark's underwear hidden? Or is it important at all for him? Costumes change all the time, we were talking about that earlier, and it doesn't alter the past or affect the bigger picture. What matters is the character itself, and our Goblin Queen is as powerful and devilish as anyone would hope her to be. Even more....
Nrama: Were there any X-Men characters you didn’t get to draw in Inferno that you really wanted to fit in?
Garron: When I look back at previous pages I've done, I always think I could've done it better. Happens all the time, to a lot of artists, and though that's a sign of an inner need of self-improvement, is also necessary to keep it in line, so you don't punish yourself too much about it. Now that Inferno is completed, I find things here and there that I feel could have been solved other ways (after all, this is not a math problem with only one answer). And of course I think this character or this other one should've been there, battling in the background, but it is also very easy to come to that conclusion afterwards. The making of a comic is a frenzied run towards the deadline, and being in the middle of that creativity storm, it’s easy to forget things along the way.
If my head wasn't attached to my neck, I would lose it for sure. I got to draw more characters than I could've ever dream of: Generation X's mutants, X-Factor and X-Force different members of all ages, 90's obscure mutants (great potential there!), even Avengers! Nobody put any kind of restraints. What's more, we were encouraged to go beyond any expectation. When I faced the moment of doing some of the massive battle scenes, I've tried my best to include as many characters as I could, searched my library and asked friends for references, no free spot left alone! If I have to think of one particular character left to draw, for Jack Kirby's sake, I would love to draw all the rest of the Marvel Universe! Really, I can't think of only one, my only neuron left is overflooded with amazing characters there. I've always loved big crowded compositions, epic scale events, but even in the greatest ones someone gets out of the picture!
Nrama: Was it a challenge balancing the superhero elements of the X-Men with the demonic nature of Limbo?
Garron: You nailed that one! Wow, that was truly a challenge! Luckily, I had an ideal style guide in the original “Inferno” story arc. Silvestri visualized a perfect mixture between the sci-fi and fantasy elements. His possessed Manhattan is vibrant, alive, breathing evil, but still manages to fit the X-Men naturally. That's speaking of the core main story, but Walter Simonson and Jon Bogdanove's storylines provide a masterclass of action and mayhem, on an epic scale that only those true geniuses can achieve. All the building blocks I needed to start constructing our take on Inferno were there.
No man is an island (no one but Krakoa or Kooey Kooey Kooey) and I think it’s just essential to look up and try to learn as much as you can from the masters. When we start our story, there are those two worlds completely separated, inherently different, evil Manhattan contained and the X-Police all around it. But as things evolved, the art direction demanded to start blending them. And the key was to make that transition very progressive, almost subtle with some elements, and very sudden, shocking with others. We tried our best to hold the reins of the pace of the story, so the reader could experience each moment as it was intended.
When you're watching a movie, you're completely in the filmmakers’ hands in those terms, you can't control what's happening on screen (unless you walk out the theater or press the pause button at home), but as a reader you can read at the rhythm you want, and thus is more challenging to influence the audience. I was really concerned about structuring the right pace so the emotions and moods brought from the script could reach the reader untouched.
Nrama: You’ve been working with Marvel for a while now, since your run on Cyclops. What’s your next goal as an artist?
Garron: Well, my main goal is to keep having work! I've been working not stop for the past one-and-a-half year, but prior to that I spent 9 years trying to make a living out of comics unsuccessfully! I tried every conceivable way of getting my own material published anywhere and, at the same time, also sent countless letters to editors, to every editor I could, with sample pages trying to become a paid pro, trying to perfect my craft in the meantime, keeping half time jobs outside the comic book and illustration field to pay my bills. I even had two agents, with extremely poor to zero results respectively. I mean, my story is nothing special here. Every artist has his/her own struggle, and each one has a rough period of learning. But I've been for too long on the dark side of the business and now that I'm fully booked and surrounded by the most kind, educated, supportive, talented people you could think of, my main wish is to keep being here, to improve my art and become the best version of myself possible.
I love being able to control the black and white part of the comic art, being at the same time the penciler and inker. The natural way to evolve is to color my own pages, so sometime in the future I hope to find the time to practice and improve that. Color artists working these days are so unbelievable awesome (you only have to take a look at the very soul and essence of Inferno, Sotomayor and Fajardo, Jr.) that I've got a lot of work to do in order to match that level! I've also taken a bite at doing covers with Inferno, and oh boy, it was so much fun! I'd love to do more of that. Beyond that point, I don't know, let's see where things take us to. Right now I cannot almost believe the size of what's happening. Marvel Comics! Newsarama interview! Kirby almighty, all of this is huge! I'm no hurry, let's enjoy every single step of the journey. Together.
Nrama: What was your experience like working on a Secret Wars tie-in? Did the separation from regular continuity give you more freedom to experiment with your art?
Garron: Since I started working with the Big Two, I've enjoyed a level of freedom that I've could never imagined. All the talent working at Marvel is extremely supportive and collaborative, and no matter if it was Cyclops, Black Vortex or a Secret Wars tie-in, I've been surrounded by people willing to listen and accept all kind of ideas.
Everyone involved doing Inferno, from our terrific writer to our unbeatable editor (you know, editors don't get any recognition for all the amazing work they do, and Katie Kubert is, simply put, the best!) encouraged me, all the time, to include everyone I could think of, and do all the crazy stunts I wanted with the pages. All the support I had can't be thanked enough. One would think that in such a big editor, and being part of an event that will change the face of the Marvel Universe, you would be extremely restricted. But they let my imagination run wild, and there's no other way for an artist to grow in his/her craft. It's been a wonderful, one of a kind experience to be invited to such a great party as Secret Wars is. To know that you're part of something that big, that you're contributing to something so important. You know, one of my all time favorite comics is Crisis on Infinite Earths, one of the first comics I read, and I've always loved big, universe shattering events. If done the right way, with heart and soul, they can capture the greatness of the heroes we love like no other kind of story.
I've never faced a project like Inferno, by size and characteristics. Its hellish needs demanded to do more lightning work, to develop my crowd generator engine, and to imagine the craziest creatures and places you could think of. And on top of that, never forgetting that there was an “Inferno” before us, a beautiful hell on earth with a legion of fans, so there was a tribute to pay. Our Inferno should be well and clearly rooted in the original, but keeping its unique essence. I love challenges, and this was one like no other.
Nrama: What’s coming up next for you? Can we expect more work through Marvel?
Garron: Sure! There are a lot of incredibly awesome Marvel comics coming! I've been offered the chance to be part of the new Star-Lord team, "All New All Different" Peter Quill! Nobody in his right mind would turn down the chance to work with Sam Humphries, he's a force of nature! He's got tons of wild, incredibly fun and mind-blowing ideas! Jake Thomas, Nick Lowe and Kathleen Wisneski commanding the ship in the editing chairs are just an unrivaled team. Dave Johnson doing the covers! When I grow up I want to have a thousandth part of his talent! And such a great character! Star-Lord is just at the highest peak of his popularity, and we're going to dig deep into his past to uncover the main keys of what made him the man we know and love, Star-Lord Year One! It's a lifetime opportunity to travel the dark corners of this familiar yet somehow new universe, full of surprises. To develop an important, essential cast of supporting characters for what the future holds. And to unleash a world-building creativity and scope into this amazing adventure, join us! Before the Guardians there is a whole universe, filled with excitement and danger, awaiting for you to discover!