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    Be the Next American Igle

    He’s been working in the industry
    for half his life, and he’s seen it all. Jamal Igle explains to Comic Foundry how art is a business, and why talent alone isn’t enough to take you to the top.

    Once you have an assignment, how do you put your own personal style on an established character’s look?
    There really is no way to avoid putting your style into something. You can’t worry about what the audience is going to think when you put your style on an established character.

    Has your style changed over the years?
    Not style so much as just the way that I draw has changed, due to years of experience and observation. I still take live art and drawing classes. I worked for four months doing animation storyboards at Sony, where I just drew 2-by-2 sketches all day long. I call it “artist boot camp” and just doing that progressed my drawing a lot.

    You’ve worked with Marvel and DC. How would you say the process differs between the two companies?
    The process between the two companies isn’t that different. But they have changed historically. They both used to send just outlines, whereas now I get very specific scripts.

    What about between the mainstream companies and the indie press?
    Yes, there is a lot more room to get involved at an indie or self-published project. More interaction between the writer and the artist, etc. You also tend to get less fully finished scripts.

    What is the relationship between you and the writer/editors at DC?
    I’m at DC’s offices talking to my editors every week, or talking to them on the phone, so there’s really a lot of communication going on. But again, for the most part they don’t ask for corrections, they pretty much leave me alone. So I’m allowed to just kinda do my thing.

    When you’re doing your initial sketches, how do you decide to draw something at different angles, from different perspectives?
    I’ll read a script two or three times, to get a feel for it, and then I’ll just spend two days laying out the entire book. I’ll just take four thumbnails, and lay out the entire thing from start to finish. This is where my storyboarding experience at Sony helps the whole process. It’s just scribbles, most people would not be able to decipher it half the time, but it helps me set up the character direction, helps me set up what kind of scene, if I want to create beats in a story, if I want to have scenes mirror each other, I can have that all worked out in advance. Even before I start an issue, I’ve got exactly how I want it to work from start to end worked out in my head.

    Is it easier for you to draw a talking-heads scene versus an action scene?
    For a talking-heads scene, you want to do it in a way that isn’t boring, and isn’t boring for me to draw. I actually find that doing a talking-heads scene – and making it interesting – far more challenging than doing an action scene.

    How do you determine the pacing of the panels?
    With a full script, that’s usually broken down already. Sometimes, I try not to do it too much, I tend to like to stick to what the writer has in mind, but sometimes I’ll add a panel, take a panel away if I think that it helps the storytelling, the flow of the story.

    Do you take influence from media such as film or television?
    Oh, absolutely. I’m influenced by film, by television. I’m influenced by animation. With film, a lot of films I like were actually made before 1960.

    Is there a staple film, a go-to film you use when you’re trying to get inspiration?
    It’s not a single film, but there are a couple of films that, if you want to look at for cool shots, great storytelling. Of course you have “Citizen Kane,” “The Big Sleep.”

    Does the film noir style impact the way you shade your drawings?
    Well, no, because I’m more line-oriented than I am shade-oriented, but just from a storytelling standpoint, that’s one of those things that you look at and are just like, “Wow,” because it is deceptively simple. Half the shots that we do in comics, they were doing in movie serials back in the ’30s. I’m a film buff, and that really does play heavily into my work.

    What’s the dynamic between you and the colorist on a project?
    It depends. On Venture, I was very much involved with the colorist. I would make suggestions, basically editing all the artwork, because I was doing the penciling and the digital inks, and overseeing everything else. On Firestorm, Chris is a much better colorist than I am, so I just let him do his thing. If the editors have any comments, then cool. I usually don’t get to see the finished product until right before it goes to press, but I’m fine with letting that go. When you’re doing a project for somebody like DC or Marvel, you have to keep in mind that you’re just a cog, you’re just part of the process. I’m not gonna pull some kind of diva bullshit.

    As an artist, do you prefer creating or editing?
    I’ve been an editor, and it’s a headache! It’s a colossal pain in the ass. So when you’re trying to draw the book, and co-edit the book and oversee what everyone is doing, you’re doing three full-time jobs, and it’s just very, very difficult. So I prefer now just being part of the machine rather than trying to oversee everything.

    As a freelancer, are you slipping sketches under doors? How does the process of getting hired work?
    That’s a good question. These days, more often than not, somebody calls me, asks me if I’m available. When I was first getting into the business, I was very lucky. I had a few contacts at DC from my internship there, which made it easier for me to go into the office and bug people, this was in ’89-’90. It’s a lot different now, as far as getting editors’ attention. I remember about 1998, I wasn’t working that much, and I spent two or three months basically just doing samples, bugging my writer friends for parts of scripts that they had done, bugging editors that I knew, just asking them to give me a bunch of JLA scripts, a Green Lantern script, a Supergirl script, whatever. Just pick four or five pages, make 50 copies, drop them off, send them out in the mail, make follow-up phone calls. That’s all I was doing for two months straight, that’s all I was doing. And it worked, actually. I got a lot of work out of it, because people got to see my work on a regular basis. Because I didn’t have a lot of stuff out on the stands, it was good practice for me. And the people would get on the phone, and even though they didn’t have work for me, they would say, “You need to work on this, this and this.”

    But having the contacts helped.
    Yes, having the contacts helped. I was very lucky that I got started in the business while I was still in high school, basically.

    You get most of your scripts via e-mail. Do you think it would change the way that you work, to be forced to work face-to-face with the writer?
    No, because there’s not going to be a situation where he’s looking over my shoulder, telling me to change things. I wouldn’t allow that for myself, because I am very stubborn and it wouldn’t be comfortable, just working-wise. But I think it would help just at the beginning of the issue, if there was something in particular that he wanted to see. I’ve worked with people before who’ve sent me pictures of themselves, or pictures of friends and said, “Hey can you work this person in there somewhere, can you stick this in there somewhere?” Or if they have a particular point of reference that they want to use for the story, and it works, then it’s easy to fit stuff like that in. I like having a certain amount of contact with the writer. Jay’s lived in New York and he’s lived in L.A., and so have I. But when he was in New York, I was in L.A., and when he was in L.A., I was in New York, so we’ve never been on the same coast. We’ve never had a situation where we’ve sat down in the same space and plotted something out. Most of our contact is either over the phone or by e-mail.

    You were talking about deadlines before, but how does that really work?
    You adapt! Deadlines are tough. Doing a monthly can be very, very crushing, but at the same time if you’re up for the challenge, and can just knock stuff out, and get the work done on time, there’s no reason a deadline should be a hindrance to you.

    How many hours per day do you spend drawing while on deadline?
    I work anywhere from nine to 15 hours per day. Usually around nine hours.

    How many pages per week does that work out to be?
    If I’m having a good week, that’s usually about six pages per week. I’ve had weeks where I’ve done eight pages, and some where I’ve done two pages per day. Once I did 22 pages in 10 days, based on someone else’s layouts. The layouts were fairly simple, it was one of those situations where it was a money job, it was actually doing an issue of this book called Perry Rhodan (by Uwe Anton and Karl Altstaetter), so they needed someone who could draw Karl Altstaetter. Now, Karl and I, you couldn’t get further across the penciling spectrum. But I took the job, muddled through, got it done and everything was right as rain. So there was an inker in Germany, basically blue-lining my mock Karl Altstaetter pages.

    Do you work in Europe a lot?
    For a little over two years I’ve been working on a project called Army of Angels, for Humanoids. I’ve done two books so far; the second one just shipped. I’m supposed to be starting a third one soon. It’s supposed to be released in the states in November.

    How many projects do you work on simultaneously?
    I never do more than two at a time, if I can avoid it. The way it’s worked out the last year, I was working on my first issue of Firestorm and penciling my second book for Humanoids, and occasionally doing artwork for Wizard magazine, so I was running myself ragged for two months.

    Do you have any words of wisdom?
    Get out quickly! Just kidding. I think probably the best thing an up-and-coming creator, whether he’s a writer or an artist, in any creative endeavor, the best lesson is to listen. Shut your mouth and open your ears. There are a lot of people in this business, people who are perfectly willing to help a young creator. People who know, people who have been there. So, if you ask for our advice, actually attempt to listen to what we’re saying because we’ve been doing this a lot longer!

    In regards to deadlines, know your limitations. If you know you can only produce three pages per week, but you know they’re spectacular pages, tell them. Tell whomever you’re working for that you can only do three pages per week. If they want to work with you, they’ll compromise. If you tell them you can do five or six pages per week and you get the job, but you keep blowing deadlines, you’re gonna lose that job and you’re not going to get hired again because you have to keep in mind that comics is a very, very small part of the entertainment industry. All you have in this business, for the most part, is your talent and your rep. And no matter how talented you are, if you have a rep for blowing deadlines, you’re not going to last that long. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been in this business since I was 17 years old, and I’m going to be 33 this year. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen some really, really talented guys blow it over and over again. Some who kept getting chance after chance and kept screwing it up, they either couldn’t admit that they couldn’t handle the work, or took on a job knowing full well that they weren’t going to be able to complete it. Another good piece of advice is that you have to keep in mind that it’s a job. And you have to treat it as such. You have to be a professional, in all things. You have to carry yourself as a professional, treat your fellow creators with respect.

    —Interview by Amber Mitchell

    Posted by Tim Leong on April 25th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

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