Mitch Gerads is a busy man.
Just finishing up a run on Batman, working on Mister Miracle and a teased sequel to Sheriff of Babylon.
But Gerads first broke out a decade ago as a member of Comic Twart, a group of artistic friends doing communal art projects online. Gerads, along with Francesco Francavilla, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Chris Samnee, and others, routinely did themed art projects online – which caught the notice of fans, as well as editors.
Fast-forward to recent times, and Gerads joined DC Comics in 2016 after a run on Marvel’sThe Punisher and the creator-owned book The Activity. Now, as a newly-minted DC exclusive artist – and newly-expecting father, he has found a partner in writer Tom King – working on Sheriff of Babylon, then Batman, and now Mister Miracle.
Newsarama caught up with Gerads recently while working on Mister Miracle and discussed the evolution of his style and finally getting around to work on one of pop culture’s biggest characters in Batman.
Newsarama: Okay so Mitch, what's on your plate today?
Mitch Gerads: Today I’m wrapping up “pencils” on Mister Miracle #3. I always put “pencils” in quotation marks because I don’t really have a true pencilling step. My process is weird.
Nrama: Why do you say it’s weird?
Gerads: I still describe my process in the traditional three-part structure that everyone is used to. Pencils, inks, and colors. But I don’t technically have a penciling stage. It’s more of an “advanced layout” stage. My under-drawing is 99% photo collage. I act out the entirety of my books as if they were a play or movie and I shoot photo ref from that. Every part. Sometimes complete with costuming. It’s weird, but I really get to figure out that character nuance that I love depicting in my work.
Once that is compiled I then “ink” over the top of that. But really the entirety of my actual drawing and choices happens during the “inking” stage.
Nrama: You're not doing a lot of cons this year as you're expecting a son this year, congrats on that, but do you feel like there's a change in how you do cons in the past year becoming DC exclusive?
Gerads: Hey thanks! I’m so excited. I’ve bought more Batman clothes for this kid…
I’ve definitely changed how I do cons. I definitely do fewer shows than I used to. I “pencil” (sorry, force of habit), ink, and color monthly books and it’s a real point of pride for me that I never miss a deadline. I could probably still hit that goal doing a few more shows per year, but that would mean even less time decompressing, spending a full day with my wife, etc, and that stuff is really important to me so I usually only do four, maybe five, shows per year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to shows. I’m still a total comic nerd and few things get me more excited than meeting and talking with fans. There’s always so much positive energy at a show! Going to shows, decompressing, all this stuff fuels the work.
Nrama: In the past, you worked on designing logos and packaging for the likes of kids cereal like Trix and Lucky Charms, did you ever think you'd be working on projects like Batman and joining an already established team of rotating artists?
Gerads: I always hoped so! I’ve wanted to be a comic artist since I was probably 4 years old. It’s literally all I ever wanted to be. But at some point in my senior year of high school I also had the presence of mind to know that it’s an immensely hard field to break into, and I was very excited to begin that independent part of my life. So I chose graphic design as my career path. After getting my BFA in Graphic Design I ended up at a packaging design firm where I worked on all sorts of kids cereals like Cookie Crisp, Trix, and Lucky Charms.
Funnily enough, technically my first DC Comics gig was illustrating a Justice League Teddy Grahams box. Long story short, I was a casualty of mass layoffs at that firm and I could either start applying for more graphic design jobs, or I could give that comic dream another shot. Thankfully I did.
Nrama: How would you explain your stylistic evolution since your Starborn days at BOOM!?
Gerads: [Laughs] Less lens flares! I definitely started out very bright and shiny and have transitioned into a much subtler approach to both storytelling and color, which I believe are one and the same. Mister Miracle has been so much fun because I’ve been kind of bridging those two worlds.
Nrama: You're one of the most prolific artists, and doing it is 100% digital. Looking back, did the transition from traditional feel alien at first or did it come more naturally to you?
Gerads: It was pretty natural. I was definitely intimidated by digital. I had the technology for a good six months before I even worked up the courage to try my hand at it. As soon as I did it completely changed my whole world. The technology has come so far in such a short period of time. Most people can’t even tell digital versus traditional anymore.
Nrama: In your experience, do you think there's this negative stigma for digital artists?
Gerads: Is there? I think if there is it’s greatly diminished from what it once was. Artists, creatives of any type, fans, most general folk, are put-off by change at first. We’re at a point where one can barely tell the difference between digital and traditional. At the end of the day,
I understand I’m leaving money on the table when it comes to original art sales. But I’m also gaining time. Which, as one gets older, realizes is far more valuable than money. I’m far more excited about the work I do because of digital. At the end of the day it should ALL be about the storytelling anyway. I’m in this job to tell stories. I care about selling books, not pages.
Nrama: What's the first thing that you look for when taking on a new project?
Gerads: Tom King’s name. Seriously. I would be completely fine doing King/Gerads books for my whole career. It’s really hard to communicate to people just how much our storytelling sensibilities sync up without it sounding like hype marketing. I’m wildly happy working on these projects I’ve been a part of.
Nrama: What is it about Tom's scripts that you find so accessible?
Gerads: Tom’s scripts always have two common themes: The passage of time and character tics. What are my favorite things to depict in my work? Time and character tics. That’s that “clicking” I always talk about with us. We both view panels as time management. Like we’re presenting the reader with a movie and not a comic book, per se. It’s just told in the comic book format of panels.
The other thing that I love about Tom’s scripts is each and every one is unique. Every issue of every project feels special. Almost as if it’s a one-shot within the larger story. I’ve never seen anyone else do that in comics.
I’m going to have to come up with some stuff I don’t like about Tom just to balance the cosmic scales. We should do an interview about that next time!
If you can’t tell, I’m really happy where I am.
Nrama: Are you ever going to write and draw your own solo project?
Gerads: I already do pencils, inks, and colors. I’m basically running the show already!
If I ever came up with an idea I really liked I would definitely like to be involved in the writing process, but I think I’d still want to collaborate with someone. There’s too much magic that happens out of working with others that wouldn’t be there, or would be corrupted by, doing everything yourself.
Nrama: Lastly, where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years? Still in comics or moved on to other projects?
Gerads: I hope it’s always comics.
I’ve been in commercial design/illustration. There’s a lot of money to be had, with a much shorter time commitment, in that field. But if you’re doing comics it’s because you love comics and telling stories. I want to tell stories forever. I guess the real dream is to do popular enough comics that maybe it doesn’t always have to be a monthly.