Javier Garron was once three months away from quitting comic books altogether, but now he's drawing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics.
Garron, who has been drawing Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy tie-in stories in both Amazing Spider-Man and the most recent Marvel Free Comic Book Day title, told Newsarama that he spent nine years (unsuccessfully) trying to break into comic books before a chance meeting with an editor turned everything around.
The Spanish artist has been working on Spider-Man since he completed a stint on Star-Lord and last year's Inferno, where he first caught the eye of many fans. Newsarama spoke with the artist about his work on Spider-Man, the "responsibility" of drawing such a high-profile character, and his ambitious and heartfelt plans for his future.
Newsarama: Javier, what are you working on today?
Javier Garron: I always prefer to wait and let editorial make the announcements in their own terms, so I prefer not to say it yet, hope you understand and forgive me! But I'll try to give you some details though! I'm helping out with - what it seems to me - a big, important project for Marvel, surrounded with A-Game names. I feel quite overwhelmed actually! Lots of characters, epic set pieces and some dramatic events happening there long promised to fans!
Nrama: We’ll be watching for your name.
One book by you that we can talk about is Amazing Spider-Man #19, which just came out. You and writer Christos Gage did a prologue to The Clone Conspiracy. How has that been for you?
Garron: Some say that the measure of a superhero are his/her villains, and I've got to admit that, even though I think that's not an absolute truth, powerful nemeses are essential. We all love a good villain, right? And creatively speaking it's very, very interesting to dig into their twisted minds. And that's what we're doing with this story, a villain-focused approach of what readers know from the Spider-Man Free Comic Book Day 2016 comic book. The other side of the coin, centered on what happened with Kingpin there.
In that story we followed Spidey as he entered a scene where something had already happened between Rhino and Kingpin, something dramatic that left a dead body behind in the crime scene, an unlikely dead body! And now we get to know everything, and it's no small deal.
Nrama: This fight scene between Spider-Man and Rhino is amazing - especially with the rushing speed lines you've drawn. How did you choreograph this fight scene?
Garron: I try to think every scene as if it was a movie and I was moving the camera in a single take, with only a second between panels. So everything should be as fluid as possible. I picture all the participants in the scene and try to make clear, no matter how forced the angle of the shot is, how they move as the action develops, using visual references or anchors. There are a lot of things to be considered alongside this when planning a page, but I put a lot of effort and try to think it as a fresh new reader approaching the story, so first and foremost everything is 100% clear in the narrative.
A page must be cool/good-looking, but if you can't understand what's going on, I don't see the point of the whole thing!
Nrama: This is the second Clone Conspiracy-related story after that FCBD story. What do you think of what you've been able to draw here with Spider-Man, Jackal, Gwen Stacy, and others?
Garron: It has been teased for many, many months what's going to happen in Clone Conspiracy, but what we've done with these two complementary stories is give a proper prologue to this event. And I think a good introduction is quite essential to whet your appetite for the story and get a taste of the tone and scale of what's to come your way. To get the feeling that, if you like these characters, you don't want to miss what's next for them. And believe me you don't wat to miss it!
As an artist it is incredibly fun and an immense honor to be able to draw these iconic characters, even for a few pages. You've read so many of their comics, being drawn by so many legends that it feels kind of surreal to draw them yourself. It's like an out-of-your-body experience, you know? There's also a huge responsibility and honor, but you have just to let it all go and just do the job and have fun, it's comics for Jack Kirby's sake!
Nrama: You come to this after doing a supernatural and outer space story with Inferno and then Star-Lord. What's it like to do something more Earth-based with Spider-Man?
Garron: You have to switch gears completely from one thing to another, and that is something that challenges you as an artist and keeps you alive (creatively speaking of course).
Having to deal with real life scenarios (like a city, no matter if it exists, like New York, or not, like Gotham) is a double-edged sword. You have a clear sense of scale when planning the shots, and you don't have to design the whole thing (which can be fun but also a complete mess), but also comes the responsibility - again this word - of being faithful to those scenarios, to make them as credible and recognizable as possible given the time and resources.
At some point your forget everything and just try to have fun with it, to make it yours, on the hope that this fun transpires somehow through the pages into the readers mind.
Nrama: Is Spider-Man a particular character you're interested in? What do you think of him as a fan, and as a challenge in drawing him?
Garron: I'm definitely interested in Spidey! The core of the character is the closest thing you can relate to as a reader, a regular guy with great power and the burden that comes with it. And even though I can't apply this indiscriminately because I haven't read every single Spidey comic ever done, all the comics I did read about him, at the end of the day, has been faithful to this idea, no matter what the character is going through. That is the drama and the awe that comes when ordinary people face extraordinary events. It's a powerful, endless concept, and it's incredibly fun to see so many legendary creators dive into this and bring so many brilliant comics.
There are three main things that concerned me when I first got to draw him. We all know that Spidey moves in acrobatic ways, right? Basic Spidey stuff. But when you have to draw him, what makes his acrobatic moves different from, let's say, Daredevil…?
Those are the kind of questions that you haven't considered before but suddenly pop up in your mind when you start working.
So that was something that worried me, being faithful to his signature moves, what makes him different from every single other hero in his body language. With that comes an extra care for anatomy, which is another huge concern. And I think my third biggest preoccupation were the windows, so many windows to draw as he swings across the city! Oh my Gosh, I get dizzy only thinking about having to draw all those hundreds of lines!
Nrama: Beyond Spider-Man (and those windows), what characters are you most interested in drawing - and not just limited to Marvel. Could be Marvel, DC, Image, anywhere!
Garron: You know, this question deals with the duality between the fan and the pro inside every creator, and how the evolve with time, at least in my case. I'm still a fan, a hardcore one, and I love the concept behind so many brilliant characters, but that fan has married the pro inside me, and they no longer go separate ways.
When, back in the day, I was buying Superman books, I bought that no matter who was writing or drawing, like the rest of my friends. But with the passing of time that changed, and if I didn't like the creative team on a series, no matter if I liked the character, I stopped buying it. I'm a fan, yes, but I'm a fan of the creators!
I'd love and jump blindfolded to work with certain writers, color artists, letterers, and editors, because at the end of the day they all can make the weakest of the concepts the most brilliant one. I'm a fan of that magic, that hard work that finally pays off, and luckily these days you can find it not only inside the Big Two but everywhere around.
Nrama: I first noticed your work with Inferno last year, but I tracked you back to getting your first start in a Darby Pop anthology then doing some DC work. How did you break into comics? Did you do work outside America before working here?
Garron: Well, I tried for many, many years to get published in Spain, but completely – epically - failed at that. I tried with comic strips, with more European-BD type of albums... anything, and the best thing I got from that were a couple of "we'll call you" (spoiler alert: they didn't!). I went to every single comic book convention I could in Spain, talked to every editor, Spanish or American, I could, and tried to learn from it and work as hard as I could. I dropped my architecture studies (don't do that, boys and girls!) and started working to pay my bills while I was trying to break into comics.
Long story short, I spent nine years doing sample pages, showing and/or mailing them to editors, and developing personal projects on the side, on the hope that something, somewhere would eventually happen. For the sake of trying everything I even had a couple of agents, with disastrous results, and when I was about to literally give up, only three more months and comics would be done for me, Katie Kubert, the editor at the time in Batgirl, trusted me (blessed her forever and ever) and I've not stopped working since.
Nrama: Do you have any close friends who also work in comics? If so, can you talk about them and your camaraderie together?
Garron: I work at home (sounds the best possible plan, but it also a double-edged sword, buddies), and I spend so, so, so much time working by myself that it leaves extremely little time to socialize outside these walls (beautiful walls, though), I'm not especially good at social networks (I should try harder, I know, but I get distracted so easily and there's so much work to be done!), and also I'm quite new at this, so I don't know many people in the comics fields, unfortunately.
I keep a couple of good friends, and we talk from time to time, and it's nice to hear that mostly everybody goes through the same problems, and how they manage to solve things, both in their professional and personal life. It's a struggle, you know, trying to balance the two of them.
Nrama: What are your goals for doing comics, besides of course making a living for yourself?
Garron: When I started drawing and showing sample pages, I only did the pencil work. As time passed, I ended up doing the black and white art, pencil and ink. I'd love to continue the progression and do the color art myself eventually. Scripts? Well, my English should improve a little, but I'd love to express myself that way too! Now that I'm reading this, I want everything! First, comics, next... the World! [Laughs]
Ahem, now seriously. Every step of the process is essential, and allows you to bring something unique to the comics experience. There are no small roles in this, and everyone is adding something of him/herself. Some may think the writer is the only one expressing himself and the rest are just capturing that vision, but my lines, my framing and lighting, the body language I draw say a lot about me. And the same goes for the palette, textures, moods and lights used by the color artist, for example.
As time passes I feel that I'm growing in this media, so my main goal I guess would be to never stop growing. To be able to never stop listening, learning and improving what I do. I hope, fingers crossed, that I keep having something to contribute, something to say, and that I find the proper ways to put it out in the world.
Nrama: Last question then… Five years from now, what do you want to be doing professionally?
Garron: Comics, comics and more comics. I just don't get enough of those! Do you think I have a problem, doc? (It’s rhetorical, please don't answer).