Khoi Pham is a rare case for a new creator in the comics community. He didn’t go the indie route first, or come from another industry like video games, instead he dove head first into Marvel Comics. In his short time with them, he has already drawn long standing members of the Mutant community, a Greek god, and now he has moved to a long term gig drawing Earth’s Mightiest heroes in Mighty Avengers . With the quick rise in profile comes an exclusive contract with Marvel to keep this new talent reined in. As regular Newsarama viewers know, Pham actually mentioned the exclusive and his new gig to us at Wizard World Chicago.
Now with the official fanfare of an announcement from Marvel at San Diego Comic-Con, we took some time to chat more with Khoi Pham, as well as Marvel Executive Editor (and Avengers Editor) Tom Brevoort about assignments past and present and what Khoi hopes to achieve in the comic book world.
Newsarama: As regular Newsarama readers (and viewers) know, you've actually been exclusive for a bit. When did the exclusive with Marvel come about?
Khoi Pham: When I was drawing the Herc books.
NRAMA: You broke into comics directly through Marvel, not going the indie route first. Was it a portfolio review? A blind submission?
KP: I did one portfolio review with Marvel at Wizard Philly in 2003, and then just stuck around the convention scene and kept posting on art forums until C.B. Cebulski from Marvel asked me to send in samples in 2006. I think having a strong web presence with Ten Ton Studios helped. Who knows for sure?
NRAMA: Tom, Marvel actually got Khoi working in comics before he was seen anywhere else. What about his style made him such a fit for Marvel that he goes from never-in-comics, to freelance artist, to now exclusive and regular artist on an Avengers book?
Tom Brevoort: Khoi’s a vital young talent, whose work is constantly improving with each job he illustrates. And he’s been growing in a very commercial direction—when you look at his work, you can see a little McNiven, a little Quesada, a little Leinil. As he continues to synthesize all of these influences and hone his own approach, he’s only going to continue to get better. And at Marvel, we’re not so much about experience as we are about ability—if a guy comes out of the gate with the chops to handle an important, popular series, we’ll give it to him.
NRAMA: Khoi, why sign an exclusive so early in your career, when you've already only done work for one company?
KP: Marvel has been extremely good to me. Not only showing trust in an unproven commodity by hiring me, but also taking the time and effort to help me develop my craft. It was easy for me to sign the exclusive contract.
NRAMA: Tom, Khoi has thus far only done one arc per book on the two titles he’s worked on for Marvel (X-Factor and Hercules). How long can readers expect to see him on Mighty Avengers?
TB: Khoi only did one arc on Hercules, but that was because the opportunity opened up for him to jump onto Mighty. And the same sort of thing could happen again if some larger, more popular series were to become available. But I don’t anticipate such a change. Khoi didn’t jump off of Hercules because he couldn’t meet the deadlines or get the job done—he transitioned off because a larger, better assignment was offered to him.
NRAMA: Khoi, after doing tow single arc runs, it sounds like you're on Mighty Avengers for the long haul. Are you glad to stick to one group of characters for awhile, or did you like getting that variety every few months?
KP: Honestly, I'm happy to be drawing anything -- one-shots, single arcs, ongoing titles, covers, whatever. Having said that, I'm grateful for Mighty because it IS an ongoing book with great potential for variety, so I get both.
NRAMA: This book features quite a few powerhouses, and you've also already drawn Hercules and Strong Guy- do you just have a penchant for the muscle builders or is it all coincidence and timing?
KP: Well, being a muscle guy myself, it only makes sense. (laughs) I think it's just coincidence. But muscle guys are indeed fun to draw. And body hair.
NRAMA: With a large cast, do you find it easier or more difficult to display a wide range of emotions and personalities?
KP: I actually find it easier to draw a bunch of different faces and characters. Drawing one face all the time gets tiring for me.
NRAMA: Post Secret Invasion, there are likely to be some shake-ups to the roster. Who are you going to miss the most?
KP: I'm going to miss the Skrulls.
NRAMA: Smooth answer. Finally, tell us, is Bendis easy to work with? Does he give you a lot of freedom, or a lot of direction?
KP: Brian rules. Lots of freedom, but chimes in when necessary. I do try and stay faithful to his directions, though. I mean, he's Brian Bendis.
NRAMA: Finally, you've mentioned in the past that you aspire to John Romita Jr.'s caliber AND speed. Is that something that has to just be innate, or is it something you can work towards?
KP: Hmmm. I've always drawn pretty quickly (getting to the art table is another story), so for me the speed has always been innate. As for caliber, check with me in 20 years and hopefully I'm half as good as John.
NRAMA: Tom, any words of advice to him and other young artists out there looking to aspire to JR Jr.?
TB: Work your ass off.