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Exclusive Interview: Artist Mark Wheatley

mark wheatley self-portraitQ: When did you get interested in comics, and what’s the first comic book series you remember really liking?

I was very young. Maybe 5 or 6 years old. The kids in our little neighborhood would trade stuff – toys and comics. I traded something I had for several coverless comics. In fact, these comics also were missing the first sheet or two, so the first 2 or 4 pages of story and the final 2 or 4 were also missing. I enjoyed reading them – I had to imagine the beginnings and endings of the stories because those parts were missing. And every time I read those stories, I would imagine different beginnings and endings. It was good exercise for the imagination.

It took me many years to figure out that I was reading a couple issues of Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories.

A year or two later I traded for two issues of Spider-Man. These comics really caught my imagination. I loved the quirky art by that Steve Ditko guy. And since the stories were continued, I kept reading them in different order in an attempt to get the story to connect and make sense. Again, my imagination was put to good use connecting the plot points! It was a few years later that some kid explained to me that the numbers on the covers were all about what order to read them. I then learned that I was reading two issues that were quite a few numbers apart. So they really did not connect. But that never stopped me making up my own stories to fill in the blanks. I guess I’m still doing that!

Q: First published work?

My first commercial published work was some poster designs that my school system commissioned me to do while I was still in high school. But I had been publishing my own fanzine about comics and science fiction for a few years at that point. The zine was called NUCLEUS and that’s where I first connected with John Workman, Bob Smith, Howard Chaykin, Marc Hempel and a few other guys who also went on to make professional comics.

doctor who, the 9th doctor adventures, art by Mark WheatleyQ: What other artists influenced and continue to influence you and your style?

I’m influenced by anything that is good and even a good deal that is bad! My personal favorite artists are many. In comics, the list includes Steve Ditko, Roy Crane, Winsor McKay, Will Eisner, and really – the list just goes on and on. I think my visual style is informed a bit by N. C. Wyeth, Nick Cardy, Alex Toth and Alex Nino. But I collect old magazines and books for the classic illustrators who worked from the late 1890s through about 1965. And all of this material exerts an influence on my approach to any of my projects. I know that I aim for a different look on each new project that gets a bit closer to the heart of the subject and mood. I don’t know if that comes through in the final work – it might all look the same to my readers.

I will also say that there are a growing number of amazing artists working today who impress me with their drawing and imagination. I stand willing to learn from anyone!

Q: Do you use computers, tablets and software, or are you old-school with pens and a scanner?

Yes.

I use all of that, and more. But my typical work flow is to draw on the computer in Photoshop, using my Cintiq. At times, I’ll print out that drawing and then pencil and/or ink a version or portions of the image that can then be scanned and brought back into the computer for digital painting. And I even will paint some real media strokes and details that will get scanned and combined with the digital painting. I’ll do whatever I think will give me the look and result I’m aiming for – all within the limits of my deadlines. The hard truth is that there are times when I would like to do the real media elements and instead I have to pull out all the digital chops and get the work done in an hour or two, because digital is faster and allows for easier changes. And since I’ve been doing a great deal of work for TV in the past decade, and TV people ask for many, many, many, many changes, digital is a life and deadline saver!

Q: What are you reading nowadays?

I live in a house full of books. I have read about two thirds of them. And I read constantly. But I never get past the two thirds mark because I keep getting more books to read!

Right now I am reading a history of magazine publishing, THE MAGAZINE IN AMERICA 1741-1990. I am also reading THE ANNOTATED MARX BROTHERS: A FILMGOER’S GUIDE TO IN-JOKES, OBSCURE REFERENCES AND SLY DETAILS by Matthew Coniam, and HAROLD VON SCHMIDT by Walt Reed, I usually am reading a novel, but the long hours I’ve had to work these past few months on a new TV pilot for ABC has interrupted that. Next I’m looking forward to reading THE DRAWING OF THE DARK by Tim Powers. As for comics, I’ve been reading the John Severin edited issues of TWO FISTED TALES.  I also am reading all sorts of magazine articles from the old magazine issues I collect. I enjoy reading about the then current events. It gives an illuminating view of history to read about it while it was happening. Very instructional for seeing how modern events are portrayed in our media and how they might be remembered years from now. Also, it tends to make it very obvious how much of our society is playing out a loop of recurring events for the past 150 years or so.

Q: Favorite comic book -> movie adaptation and TV show?

I was very happy with the first Sam Rami SPIDER-MAN movie. I also thought the first IRON MAN movie was exceptional. I don’t know about TV. Although the 1960s BATMAN TV show is what started me drawing my own comic books. I got all charged up by the BATMAN craze and drew stories that featured a duck version of BATMAN. Probably the best adaptation of anything to TV that I’ve ever seen is THE EXPANSE on SyFy. But that’s from the science fiction novels by James S. A. Corey.

Q: Share some of your work: A first pencil sketch to a finished panel. Do you do all your own inking, coloring, and lettering?

mark wheatley doctor who cover creation
Progression of cover for issue #8 of the 12th Doctor Adventures, Year Two, by Mark Wheatley.

Above is the sequence for The 12th Doctor Adventures, Year Two, Issue #8, left to right, starting with my graphite sketch of Peter Capaldi. It was very simple, but I was mainly going for the likeness that would work with just half the face. Then I scanned the sketch and painted it in Photoshop. Finally, the finished cover from Titan.

FLUFFYPUSS: DOOMSDAY CAT, a new Sunday Comics series by Mark Wheatley.
FLUFFYPUSS: DOOMSDAY CAT, a new Sunday
Comics series by Mark Wheatley.

Q: What’s next for your career?

Right now I am working on a lavishly illustrated YA novel with steampunk master G. D. Falksen. We are two years into the work and should be announcing it in the next few months. I’m also working on the new edition of BREATHTAKER that I did with Marc Hempel. We have fully remastered it and are working on an additional new story together. There will be some major public events tied into the new edition, including a major touring show of the original art to a number of museums. And I just completed work on the SQUARE ROOTS pilot for ABC TV. We will know in May if it will go to series. I’m also continuing to paint covers for DOCTOR WHO at Titan, STARGATE ATLANTIS at American Mythology and THE THREE STOOGES at American Mythology.

Did I mention FLUFFYPUSS: DOOMSDAY CAT? It’s a Sunday Comic I’m launching from Golden Bell Studios and I do it all, from story to art.

And there are even a few more things I’m not yet allowed to announce!

Q: What’s one title you think is a good example of your art / writing here at TFAW?

My current comics work is mostly covers, that I already mentioned.  I think my story, “NIGHTMARE” that I did for the Dark Horse JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN this past year was nice. But my favorite works are EZ STREET from ComicMix/IDW and BREATHTAKER soon to be out from Titan.

Q: Where were you born, what did you study in college, what are the names of your pets, if you have any, and where do you live now?

I hail from Virginia, where I attended Virginia Commonwealth University. The school trained me to be an art director. And I worked as an AD for three years before I got into comics. I have two beautiful, young kitty cats – Amber & Autumn and they and my lovely wife, Carol live with me here in the wilderness of rural Maryland in our house full of old books.

Q: Do you have any personal appearances coming up?

I do! I hope to see a lot of my fans this summer. I’m preparing for a busy convention season that starts at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, followed by 3 Rivers Comicon, then Awesome Con and the San Diego Comic-Con International and then the Baltimore Comic-Con – oh and FCBD at Redd Skull Comics in Calgary, too!

You can keep track of me and see my latest works at MarkWheatleyGallery.com and on Facebook at @WheatleyMarks.

Are you a creative professional in the comic book or graphic novel industry? We’d like to interview you! Please send an email inquiry to Dave Taylor at TFAW as the first step.

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