PanelsOnPages.Com had the pleasure of interviewing Marvel artist Paolo Rivera. He has done beautiful work on painted series Mythos, the much talked about O.M.I.T. story in Amazing Spider-Man, and he is currently working on Daredevil with Mark Waid.
It was a great 4 years of constant creative endeavor. Aside from the fantastic education, I met a lot of tremendously talented people who are now life-long friends. They’re the people I still go to whenever I’m stuck in a rut. As for Mazzucchelli, his class was probably my favorite of the bunch. He has a fundamental approach to storytelling that serves as the solid foundation for any exploration, and it forced me to concentrate on elements beyond anatomy and perspective.
You’ve always wanted to work in comics. Did some of your other instructors look down at the comic book industry as a legitimate form of art?
It was a little bit of a struggle at first, but as we were entering our freshmen year in 1999, Jimmy Corrigan was making its debut to rave reviews. By the time we were seniors, there was no question that comics was one of the premier pursuits for illustration majors. Despite any disdain (either real or perceived) the imposed curriculum provided a wider survey of the art world, something that was ultimately more valuable than comics isolation.
On your blog The Self-Absorbing Man you share a lot of your methods and your process. Is teaching something you see yourself doing sometime in the future?
Maybe in the distant future. I give at least 1 lecture a year, if not more. I enjoy the process of sharing knowledge because it forces me to hone and clarify my own ideas. The blog serves this purpose quite well, in addition to blatant self-promotion.
You seem to enjoy sculpting. Using a lot of your sculpts for references. Any thoughts on sculpting characters and have a line of Rivera Statues similar to what Bowen does?
I do enjoy sculpting, but I don’t see myself do anything similar to Bowen. He was my initial inspiration, though. He wrote an instructional article in Wizard that introduced me to Super Sculpey and the process of sculpting miniatures. Now that I’ve tried my hand at some digital sculpting, I’d like to do some projects for Sideshow Collectibles, but it always comes down to time. Right now, it’s just not feasible.
Your parents ran an art supply store in Florida and your dad has recently worked with you on Daredevil as an inker. How was working with your dad? What impact did your father have on your work?
My mom actually ran the store from 1982-2000, so it was a constant presence in my life. I spent nearly every day there, so it was just part of the routine. I did my homework there, ate lunch, and drew with whatever time was left. Both my parents were influences, artistically. If I had to grossly simplify things, I’d say my mom was more about color and composition, and my dad was more about draughtsmanship. Obviously, there was a lot of overlap. It’s a joy to work with my dad, though. I still remember him telling me when I was very young that he could envision himself as an inker, but not a penciler. “Penciling is too hard!” He read some Marvel books when he was young, and always maintained a great respect for the artists who could produce that kind of work on a monthly basis.
Actually, for growing up in an art supply store, I didn’t have as much access as one might think. In the early years, I would draw on scraps of foam core that were left over from framing jobs. I used a lot of markers, but really shied away from paint for most of my formative years. In fact, I didn’t really try my hand at painting in any real sense until high school. Wet mediums were always fairly intimidating to me. And I don’t think I really got the hang of color until well into college (and a bit after). Now, I’m all over the place, but it makes for a broad comfort zone.
In the past you have mentioned that Alex Ross is someone you admire. What is it about his work and his style that was an influence in your work?
He was the one that really brought it all together for me. Aside from being phenomenally skilled, he was a professional, and has one of the best-managed careers in the industry. At the time, though (I was 15 or 16 years-old) he was simply the best. I would read his books over and over (which made me a fan of the characters) and copy his work to the best of my ability.
Are there any other artists working now who’s work you admire?
There are simply too many to name. That being said, I’m thrilled to be working with Chris Samnee and Marcos Martin on Daredevil. Not to mention my dad!
You’ve worked on Spider-Man and are currently working on Daredevil. Both characters have their roots in NYC. Some say that the city is a supporting character in both books. Do you view it that way? How has living in NYC influenced your art?
Most definitely. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to live here. I don’t get out to see the city as much as I’d like, but it’s always there when I’m ready. I’d actually like to be able to draw more of it, but deadlines don’t really allow for the level of detail I’d like to include.
You are collaborating with writer Mark Waid on Daredevil. Can you describe how it is to work with such an established writer?
It’s a dream come true. Kingdom Come was one of the first books I ever became obsessed with, so I often try to imagine telling my 16-year-old self that I’ll be working with Waid one day. I had met him very briefly at Heroes Con in 2008, but we really met last year at Megacon. We both seem to love visual storytelling in the same way, and his take on Daredevil is just pitch-perfect. I hope this lasts for a long time.
You’ve shared the art duties with you on Daredevil is Marcos Martin. Can you describe how that works?What is the level of communication that goes into it? Is there any friendly competition between the two of you?
Marcos has since moved on to other projects (Daredevil #6 was his last issue) but I feel like he left his definitive mark in just 3 issues. He showed me that there’s plenty of room for compromise between writer and artist, and that the script is a guideline, not an algorithm. We shared layouts in the initial stages of each issue, and he always had great insights, especially as I was starting out. I’ve been a fan of his work since I first saw it… and I hope he can find time to do some more Daredevil work.
As with Marcos, I get the sense that Chris is looking to the same masters of the form that I am. We all seem to have a dedication to the fundamentals of composition, design, and storytelling that lends itself to a unified look and tone. We each have our quirks in terms of anatomy and style, but it’s always in service to the narrative. I’ve become a fan of Chris’ work mainly through his pin-ups, but every page of sequential art I’ve seen is flawless.
Paolo, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. We will continue to look forward to your great work on Dardevil.
You can check out Paolo’s blog at The Self-Absorbing Man
If you are interested in buying original art by Paolo please visit Splash Page Comic Art