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By Jordan Cooper
What shoots webbing, climbs walls and feasts on human flesh? Zombie Spider-Man was one of many characters in the recently finished Marvel Zombies mini-series written by Robert Kirkman and penciled by Sean Phillips. Every issue came clad with a painted rendition of a classic Marvel comic book with zombie characters. The covers, as well as the series, were so popular that every printing of each issue featured a new cover. Arthur Sudyam, the incredibly talented cover artist and creator of current series Cholly & Flytrap (Image Comics) and Mudwogs (Heavy Metal), recently stopped by for a short interview for Comic Foundry.
Comic Foundry: What was the first comic book that you ever read, and how did it affect you?
Arthur Sudyam: GI Combat, Russ Heath. Soldiers with Dinosaurs during WWII. There was this story about a GI with a robotic GI partner stranded on a Pacific island full of dinosaurs. I thought that was just great and I wanted to read more comics. That was the start. After that, I got into all the Marvel Universe (Jack) Kirby/ (Steve) Ditko/Stan Lee comics.
CF: Did you go through any fine arts schooling?
AS: No. Self taught. My uncle took correspondence courses with Norman Rockwell when he was young. I inherited his notebooks and they were a help along the way — especially when it came to drawing drapery.
CF: How long have you worked in the comic book industry?
AS: Since 1972.
CF: How did you and Marvel first become connected?
AS: I first started working for Marvel in 1998; I did a Conan book for them. I have always appreciated the more creative and open atmosphere at Marvel.
CF: Do you have a natural penchant for zombies, or just right place, right time?
AS: Actually, zombies give me the heebie-jeebies, but I’m a life-long student of human anatomy and the Zombies projects gave me an opportunity to put all of that hard study into play.
CF: How do you feel about working on the first alternate universe story to come out of the Ultimate Universe?
AS: There are certain teams that come along once in a blue moon that really click and work. Me, Kirkman and Phillips, I think, are one of those teams. We’re all on the same page. It’s great to be able to stretch one’s creative wings, especially on tried and true characters. I think it’s an underused concept that could really open things up for other series as well.
CF: What was your reaction to the awe and praise your covers received?
AS: Of course it felt great. It’s very flattering and I appreciate it. I’ve always had these ideas of how characters could be represented, how it could be. I’ve been waiting a long time to show what I can do with these characters.
CF: Was it fulfilling for them to come back over and over with each subsequent printing for you to paint new covers?
AS: Yeah, very much so. Each cover was more fun than the previous one. I’m told that the same people who already bought the first printings went back again to buy the second, third and fourth printing just to get the covers. And I paint for the fans, not for the money. So that’s the greatest compliment an artist can receive.
CF: How did the opportunity of donating the oil painting of a zombie Batman to the Pittsburgh Comicon come about?
AS: I was approached by the organizers of the Con, who told me that they were holding an auction to benefit the Make a Wish Foundation. I’m an active supporter of many charities, especially ones for kids, including Children’s International, Operation Smile, and a lot of others. Once I knew it was for kids, I decided to donate my artist proof of the zombie Batman to them to help them raise as much money as they could.
CF: Was it your choice to donate all profits to the Make-a-Wish Foundation? Do you have a withstanding relationship with Make-a-Wish?
AS: Well, the organizers are the ones that set up the profits, and they deserve all the credit for that. As far as my relationship with Make-a-Wish, this is my first time supporting them directly. But as a kid who spent a lot of time in the hospital, I whole-heartedly support any organization that helps to make the hard times go a little more smoothly.
CF: Was the painting part of your personal collection or did you paint it specifically for the convention?
AS: That painting was the rough sketch for a large painting that I’m working on that I re-adapted with a zombie theme just for the charity auction.
CF: How large was the painting? How much money did it end up raising?
AS: It was pretty small, as it’s a sketch that I use for my work. I’m told that it broke the record for the highest sale ever for one of the auctions. But I don’t know the exact amount.
CF: Do you have any other works in the future with Marvel?
AS: With Marvel, we’re working on it right now so it’s too early to talk about. But of course working with the folks at Marvel has been a good experience. As for other publishers, David Spurlock and his company, Vanguard, have just published “The Fantastic Art of Arthur Suydam,” a compilation of my work in both hard- and soft-cover. Spurlock did a great job on this one. Also, I’ve got irons in the fire with publishers both here and internationally.
CF: How dedicated are you to pursuing future works in comics?
AS: That’s like asking somebody how dedicated they are to breathing. This is what I do.
CF: Is there any advice you would like to give to any aspiring comic book artists?
AS: Endeavor to be the best.