LIVE! With Greg Capullo At Baltimore Comic Con On Spawn, Creech, Batman
Rounding off Friday's programming at Baltimore Comic Con, fans decamped to an upstairs ballroom for a sitdown with Greg Capullo in a spotlight panel. He's always very frank about his history and life in comic art, conveying an ethos of teaching and learning to help out aspiring comic artists.
Capullo described himself as a "loyal guy" when it comes to comics, but also one who expects some degree of help in promoting comics artists, something that's not always that common, and led him initially to work for Image on Spawn. Through working with Todd McFarlane he ended up doing album covers, and now later on, bands come to him and he continues to do that. He developed character animation, toys, and video game development that happened "behind the scenes" when he finished work on Spawn.
Commenting on his early high productivity doing multiple things at the same time as Spawn, he said wryly, "It gets harder when you get older" and laughed. Talking about the character Creech, he mentioned that he wants to come back to the character with Scott Snyder when they are done with Batman. He's thinking of going back to issue 1 and drawing and rethinking the story, and producing "one big Creech book beginning to end" when Batman is finished. There are 16 issues left on Batman, which should take about 2 years before Capullo can do other stuff.
He said that he needed to go "mainstream" after marrying his wife, who had two children and one ready to go to college, which led to leaving Image work. For artists, page rates are one thing, but royalties from book sales are the big financial support. DC said they were interested in giving him something "Batman related" and once he'd signed the non-disclosure contract, he learned about the New 52 and was told that it was actually Batman they were offering him.
Since he grew up a Marvel guy, he never foresaw his work for DC, but he does recall that the first character he ever drew at 4 years old was Batman. Marvel was his first true love, but the character lured him into working for DC. He was "crapping his pants", because it was coming in at Batman #1, taking the "world icon superhero" back to his beginning. It was "freakin terrifying" to be setting such precedent. He still doesn't like the artwork he did on #1 because he was "bound up" on that artwork and had "performance anxiety". Now he doesn't have that and so the artwork has improved. It gradually improved over issues #2 and #3 and he can see the anxiety dissipate in the artwork.
He said, "You guys make our life very terrifying at times", he laughed, pointing to the fans, regarding performance anxiety. The most creators can do is do their work and hope for the best, and though fans like his Batman today, he doesn't take it for granted that people will like it tomorrow. He takes it as a "blessing" that people like it, but is the same artist who did other work that people weren't as interested in. Character is part of it, being Batman. Iconic characters bring "fan following", he said. The "union of Scott Snyder and I together seems to have struck a chord with fans" and it's not something that he planned, so feels very grateful.
When working at Marvel, he said, he'd get only 4-6 pages from a writer which was "nothing" compared to the full-script versions he gets at DC. Capullo comically reenacted the sound of the printer going on and on from Scott Snyder's first script with mechanical noises, getting 40 pages of script for a 22 page story. He loves Scott, but Scott's a "wordy guy" with plenty of dialogue, and trying to figure out where to put it is often a challenge. Because Snyder comes from a prose background, particularly, so that's to be expected, Capullo said. Reading the script for Batman #1 was an "eye-opener" for him.
Initially, Capullo and Snyder "butted heads" over control vs. freedom, and these were new ways of working for both of them. Now Snyder gives him "story beats" and blocks of what happens between pages without beats. Every single script Capullo gets, at the end of it, Snyder says "Or whatever you want!" with a smiley face. "God bless that kid, I love him", said Capullo.
Most of the time, Capullo reads the plot, "run it through my head a bunch of times" and starts to think of panel shapes that would tell the story best. The "one advantage artists have above cinema", he said, is the choice of panel shapes. They can use the tall, vertical panel for a "drop", for instance. He tries to "pick the moment on the page" to bring attention to. It's hard for him to describe the process because it happens organically and develops. If something doesn't work, he "starts from another path".
Capullo said he's "the most disciplined son of a bitch", an art robot. He gets up, takes care of children, has a protein shake and gets to work. "There are days when your work fights you", he said, but he's the "biggest jackass you'll meet", because he will stay at that board up to 16 hours until he gives up. His wife says, "I tell you all the time, walk away. You'll come back refreshed and feel better". He stays there "like a machine". Occasionally he does walk away, and then, of course, does feel better later. But he's "disciplined to a fault", and doesn't give up lightly.
When an audience member asked about his art style, Capullo says that no one style is appropriate to every book, so at the start he "modifies the approach" he takes to a project. When working on Spawn, he "trained" with draftsmanship, with "reality-based" study. When he worked with McFarlane, no limits were ever placed on him, and he started experimenting. He considers that now "whacked out", but his approach was based on occasionally abandoning draftsmanship for "visceral emotion". It allowed him to move beyond anatomy. There were many readers who had liked his Marvel work, but "abandoned" him on Spawn for this reason. Some fans were afraid that he'd drawn Batman like Spawn. So he had to make a "conscious effort" to bring back some of the "correct draftsmanship" of his earlier days on Batman.
When he returns to Creech, Capullo said in answer to a fan question, he will definitely do it as an Image imprint, and not through another publisher.
Speaking of the DC move west, he said, "No one is more upset than the Marvel guys", who feel that DC belongs in New York.
Jim Lee had already designed the "costumes" for Batman before he came on board, Capullo said, in response to an audience member, though when it came to Zero Year, he was able to redesign the costume. The New 52 design was all Jim Lee.
A fan asked if he's thinking of producing a coffee table book on learning to make comic art and he said, "Yes, yes, yes. I have a lot of notes", and he chips away on those notes and ideas with chapters that he'd like to do. But a busy life makes that difficult. Some stuff will go over the "head of a beginner", he said. He's thinking of making "levels of books" with beginning, intermediate, and pro tips.
A fan asked about what characters that Capullo might be interested in, based on his personality, that he hasn't worked on yet. Capullo gave quite a humorous answer about being a "kid in a candy shop" when asked that. He loved Fantastic Four and Ben Grimm, The Thing, growing up and there are too many characters for him to list in terms of what he'd love to work on. He said, "throw a dart" and he'd be happy doing that work most likely.
The panel was briefly interrupted when Capullo's wife approached, showed him her phone, and said people were already talking about his leaving Batman based on his previous statement above. "Oh, I accidentally announced the end of my contract on Batman", he said, shrugged, and then commented "Everyone is always so worried about me leaving Batman. People get so upset and ask me all the time". He then moved back to answering his previous question on characters.