Unless you’ve been doing time off-planet, you’ve heard about Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. This March, Fast Company magazine will have a feature article spotlighting several key executives and power players at the Mouse House, including an illustration of each one gussied up as a super-hero from the Marvel Universe. I met with the artist, Kirk Manley, and asked him a few questions about the project:
Newsarama: Kirk, these illustrations are pretty awesome. Which was your favorite to draw?
Kirk Manley: I would say it was a tie between Steve Jobs as Iron Man and Cuse and Lendelof as Thor and Hawkeye. I’m a big Mac geek and the idea of illustrating Jobs as Iron Man was a thrill. I’m also a big fan of artist Adi Granov who does amazing illustrations of Iron Man for Marvel, so it was a great chance to do something that would reflect what an influence he has on my work. The Thor and Hawkeye piece was actually a last minute addition and I had to crank the rough-out overnight. At first I wasn't real enthusiastic about it, but as it developed on my sketch pad, I knew it was going to be a favorite. The composition just fell together really well. I’ve always liked Hawkeye as a character and the current Thor is really the best he has been in many years. So they were exciting to do.
Nrama: How did you decide who got to be whom?
Manley: That was actually dictated by the client, Fast Company magazine. I worked with two different art directors because the project was broken into two different groups of four. The first group was for the article in the magazine. I guess when they saw these finished they where so pleased that they decided they wanted to feature four more--along with the original four--on their website. The only one that I actually had input on as to which characters to use was the Thor and Hawkeye illustration. The client had looked at a listing on Marvel’s website of famous Marvel buddy teams and I was originally asked to use Beast and Power Man since we hadn't yet worked the Avengers into the mix. I suggested Thor and Hawkeye instead, since they were also Avengers but more top-tier characters. They liked that idea and so we went for it.
Nrama: Who is the Hulk and which two executives are in the X-Factor piece?
Manley: Hulk is ESPN's President, George Bodenheimer. Wolverine is Rich Ross, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios. And Rogue is Carolina Lightcap, the President of Disney Channel.
Nrama: Did you do the cover captions as well?
Manley: Well, the client supplied the copy but I illustrated the titles and captions. It was my experience with doing type as well as illustration that had sold the client on using me for this project in the first place. So I suppose in this case being a little diversified actually worked in my favor. I say that because in comics, editors and publishers typically discourage you from trying to do more then one job. They say "if you want to pencil then just pencil", which makes sense when you’re trying to break into, say, a penciling gig. But as an illustrator for other arenas, it helps to be able to do more than just pencil.
Nrama: Talk a little bit about your process.
Manley: For any client I initially do a quick rough concept for the art director to see what I’m thinking in terms of the layout and design of the piece. On this project I actually did several different versions of each so that the client had a variety of options. Once a layout is settled on, I typically do a tight pencil render. It’s this step where I have to nail down the likeness which, obviously, is key to these pieces working as well as they do. I used images I found online of each executive. Then after I get the client’s approval of the tight pencils I scan them into my system, a Mac G4 desktop, and ink them digitally in Photoshop. After that I copy the pieces into an Illustrator file where I create all of the titles and captions. Then the pieces go back to the client for approval on the inks before I color them in Photoshop, replacing the inked version with the color version in Illustrator. I output this into a hi-rez .tif file of the final approved illustration.
Nrama: Now, have any of the executives seen these yet and gotten back to you?
Manley: Actually, Carlton Cuse, the LOST producer who is portrayed as Thor, contacted me to ask for a print to frame and hang in his office after seeing these at the Fast Company website. He also tweeted to his 29,000 followers about the piece, so that was very cool. I think a representative from Anne Sweeney's office also contacted Fast Company wanting a print. Apparently the magazine had anticipated that the executives would enjoy these pieces so they had hi-quality prints produced and framed, then sent them out to each person which I thought was classy. For me, though, just the thought that Steve Jobs, for instance, might have my art on his wall is very awesome.
For more of Kirk’s freelance work as well as a gallery of his comic book art, check out his website www.StudioKM.com. Kirk’s most recent comic book work was featured in Accent UK’s Western anthology, and later this year will see the debut of his special forces team for a world overrun by the strange and supernatural: Zombie Girl and the Four Tigers (http://zgirlandthe4tigers.blogspot.com/).