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    Upping The Ant

    Mario Gully had no formal art training, but he did have a stack of rejection letters. Now Image just picked up his book. Mario shared with CF on how he did it, and how you can be next.

    You’re a self-taught artist. Can you explain that?
    I haven’t attended any traditional art school or have had any classes on art or writing. I learned form reading books and going to cons. I asked pros to critique my work and then made the adjustments. But to be honest, the term “self-taught” is really an illusion. No one can learn to draw within themselves. You have to be taught by something. You can learn by nature, or from looking at people out of the window. The trees or the people teach you to translate what you see. So, everybody has some kind of teacher.

    Did you notice benchmark moments as your art improved? Has your art evolved?
    At times I’ve had specific moments when I learned to enhance my artwork. It’s evolutional — the whole process. The more you do it the better one gets.

    The biggest turning point I had is when Erik Larsen told me to bring my art up a notch. It was one of those conversations when it’s like, if you play with the big boys you need to put out better art. I knew what I had to do and it was a matter of proving that I was ready. Now I believe my art is far superior to any of my old stuff. I just needed to be properly motivated.

    How did you get your book picked up?
    I first sent Ant to pretty much every publisher with an address. All turned me down flat. I called them up, I had friends in the industry, the whole nine. I was even turned down by the outcast of comics. After much digging I found a very small independent publishing house that said they could put it in the shops. I went with them because nobody else would take me. This all happened within eight or nine months.

    Then I got an e-mail from Sean O’Reilly (publisher of Arcana Studio) one night. He asked me to jump aboard. He had seen Ant in a gallery of potential comics of a publisher that picked me up. That didn’t make it off the ground, I might add. I went with Arcana. That was that.

    After that rejection, how did you stay committed?
    It was more like 12 rejections. It was very hard on me. I actually quit for a period. It was crushing to me that nobody thought I had potential at the very least. That was a very hard time. Very depressing.

    But I later dug deep and pushed ahead. I figured that I have been trying to be a comic creator for seven or so years and I needed to keep going. I don’t have a Plan B. Comics is what I choose to be apart of, and to turn the car around and to try a different carrier was worse than going forward so I went forward and kept trying.

    How did you pitch your book?
    I really didn’t have a strategy. I hate smoke and mirrors. I just sent in the first five pages, a synopsis and two covers. That should be enough to get a phone call.

    What was in your pitch packet?
    J. Scott Campbell.

    ANT was also just picked up by Image. How did that change happen?
    It was all persistence. In one way or another, I was always sitting at Images’ door step, asking them to let me in. I waited seven years for that door to open. Later I hooked up with Erik, and he didn’t care too much for Ant issue one, I suppose. But I grew and got better. I kept knocking. He noticed. We had a talk about what Ant and I could be with proper guidance. I was more than happy that Erik would help me. And that was that.

    Can you explain the free pinups you did for Image?
    I met Anthony Bozzi (former marketing director for Image) at Megacon in Florida about four years ago. He mentioned that he could possibly get me a free pin-up in one of Image’s books. I called him pretty much every other day for about six months to get my foot in the door. He saw persistence in me. He later hooked me up with free pin-ups to get my feet wet, to get published and to learn. I did it because I wanted my own book one day. And I figured if I keep at it, it would happen.

    What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you got into this business?
    Nothing. Because I wouldn’t change one aspect of this journey that I’m on. If I wanted to change something I might get a different outcome. No matter what happened, I always did my best. And you have to be happy with the results when you do your best. I am what I always wanted to be. I’m very fortunate.

    You’ve held contests where fans can submit art for a pinup in your book. What do you see as the area with the biggest room for improvement in new artists? What’s the solution?
    The biggest problem I see in most novice artists is that they just don’t draw comic sequential pages. I really don’t understand it. You see a lot of guys wanting to show you their stuff and it’s a single image on notebook paper or something. Or you get guys that paint a huge monster on a poster board and say they want to be a comic book artist.

    The only solution to any endeavor is to educate yourself on what the requirements are before you apply for the job. Nobody goes to a job that is looking for help and applies for a position he knows nothing about. Why is comics any different?

    How did you get such big artists to do covers for your relatively new title?
    I made friends in the industry. One phone call led to another.

    You worked in trading cards once. Do you recommend that for an > artist looking for work?
    I did it because it is art, and getting paid for any art is a rarity in my book. A good friend of mine hooked me up with the company. Would I recommend it to artists? Sure, if that’s what he or she wants to do. Did it help me in the comic industry? I would have to say no. It’s very cool to get paid for some lead on a piece of paper, but very few people can use stuff like that to get sequential work from a publisher.

    How did you deal with criticism of your book?
    I listen to everything, good and bad. I eat the meat and spit out the bones.

    You deal with criticism all your life. It’s how you use that criticism to make you a better artist is what counts.

    —Interview by Tim Leong

    Posted by Tim Leong on March 21st, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

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