Heathentown coverWhile some of us may be delighted by the biggest and the most popular in the world of comics, we all realize that for every popular book, writer or artist there has to be a beginning. While there are many ways to success with each story finding its own route, there is one attribute that can be found in each one: talent. Up & Coming is a regular feature at Newsarama.com that seeks out the next generation of comic creators and profiles them today. Some comic creators’ careers move faster than others, take Gabriel Hardman for example. In the 1990s he was a budding comic book artist who decided to switch gears and become a motion picture illustrator, working on Spider-Man 3, the second and third X-Men movies, Superman Returns, Tropic Thunder and all three Austin Powers movies. He went out to direct a short film entitled Wrong Way Up which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival… but the allure of comics kept tugging. He jumped back in with both feet in 2008, working on The Black Coat at APE Entertainment, a strip for Zuda and then began working for Marvel. Starting out with a sequence in Monster Size Hulk and then graduated to be a regular part of the ongoing series Agents of Atlas. By the time this interview comes out, he might be drawing Spider-man for all we know. Let’s catch up with him before he can’t be called an Up & Comer anymore.
Newsarama: Gabriel, can you tell people about your background?Heathentown, page 17 Gabriel Hardman: I've been a full time storyboard artist for the last 12 years. I've worked on movies including X-Men 2, Austin Powers, Superman Returns, Spider-Man 3, Angels & Demons and Tropic Thunder. But this year I'm trying to balance out my movie work with a lot more comics work.
NRAMA: I’m glad to hear it. With your success in movie storyboards, why'd you decide to do more comics work?GH: I had only set out to do creator owned work like Heathentown as a way of telling stories I was interested in telling. Comics as a medium has huge creative possibilities and I'm doing work that readers can see and appreciate directly.
I ended up doing the freelance work because people were offering me gigs that were too good to turn down. I've had so much fun drawing The Black Coat, Hulk vs. Frankenstein and Agents of Atlas. I want to set aside as much time as I possibly can to draw comics. Creator owned and freelance.NRAMA: How would you compare the storyboard business to comics? GH: Comics are a very direct medium - what you draw is what people see. Storyboards are the first step in planning a project that will involve thousands of people and while it can be very creative at times, it's the director's movie. NRAMA: Tell us about the comics you’ve done in the past. Hardman's Namor GH: I have an OGN called Heathentown from Image/Shadowline that I illustrated and my wife Corinna Sara Bechko wrote that came out earlier this year. I worked on the Skaar, Son of Hulk Special and drew the main story in Monster Sized Hulk for Marvel. Monster Size is one of my favorite freelance gig's I've drawn. It's got horror, atmosphere and the 1970's furry vested Marvel Frankenstein's monster. I also had a great time drawing a Black Coat one shot for Ben Lichius and Ape Entertainment. I drew a mini called Wind Raider for Ape as well. Corinna and I also co-wrote and I drew a webcomic called The Crooked Man that ran on DC's Zuda site that we hope to continue in the near future.
NRAMA: What do you have coming up?
GH: I'm drawing a 1958 flashback story in Agents of Atlas issues 2-4. It's awesome stuff. Jeff Parker is a really fun writer. Corinna and I are also working on another creator owned Graphic Novel. It's a gritty epic sci-fi story called Arthur McBride.
NRAMA: Do you have a dream project you'd like to work on?
GH: I have several creator owned dream projects but hopefully I can get those done over time. As far as corporate characters go, I'd love to write and draw a goof-ball Doom Patrol story or a street level Green Arrow or Question story. I would have liked to draw an arc of Greg Rucka's Queen & Country or an issue of Brubaker's Captain America (preferably a WW2 flashback!). Corinna and I would also love to write a Marvel horror book!
NRAMA: Wow. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Did you just spring out of the womb talented, or did you do some schooling for art?
GH: I did not. Well...not much. I went to School of Visual Arts in NYC majoring in Fine Art for one semester when I was 17 and dropped out because I was broke. Though, I had attended a High School that was geared toward Visual Arts in Florida where I learned a lot. I was a security guard at the Guggenheim Museum for 9 months before getting work as a penciller for Marvel on a book called War Machine which I drew under a pseudonym. I worked in comics for a couple of years, never doing anything great. Then I moved to Los Angeles and started doing storyboards. But, I've always wanted to go back and do comics work I was happy with and I'm doing that now.
NRAMA: Well if you didn’t do much school, what initially prompted you to get into art?
GH: My mother is a fine artist and I've always drawn. I have very wide ranging taste in art. I'm as big a fan of Willem De Kooning and Max Beckman as I am of Noel Sickles and David Mazzucchelli.
NRAMA: One last question Gabriel - why'd you work under a pseudonym for a big book like War Machine for Marvel?GH: I didn't have any outstanding warrants or anything - as far as I know. It was just a dumb idea I had when I was 15 years old and I started seriously showing my portfolio around at conventions. Since editors remembered the name, I stuck with it. I was 18 when I got my first professional comics job. The work I did back then wasn't very strong and I was assigned some seriously mismatched inkers. It's just as well it was drawn under another name! Now I always ink my own work and at Marvel I've been lucky enough to work with great colorists like Elizabeth Dismang Breitweiser.