ESQUIVEL: Scotty God! His name alone is enough to strike fear into the quivering hands of lesser artists. No nancy boy middle initials, no gratuitously polysyllabic nonsense: just a nigh-blasphemously deific moniker the like of which would make Charles Atlas kick rocks.
Alright, technically his Christian name is "Godlewski", but that's not how I, or anyone else in the Arizona creative community know him—and I'm tickled fucking pink that the rest of the world (BOOM! Studios in particular) has begun to catch on.
Scotty, before you were scooped up by the big league, you and I met hawking our respective wares at a Free Comic Book Day at the now legendary (and, unfortunately, defunct) Spazdog Comics in Phoenix, Arizona.
Speak to me about your time slumming it with the rest of us schmucks. Put down that golden goblet of blow for a second, pull out of that high priced Guatemalan call girl Mark Waid put on his Obsidian Card and travel back in time with me to an era when you weren't sure whether or not you were going to make it, to a time when you were juggling raising a kid, working a full time day gig, and churning out editor-attention-grabbing, independent funnybooks.
Talk to me about two years ago, Mr. God(lewski). In particular, talk to me about Mysterious Adventure Magazine.
GODLEWSKI: Well, the way it was two years ago is much the way it is today. Except I get a paycheck from Boom! Studios. Still juggling a kid, day job and funnybooks.
And no, honey, Mark Waid did NOT buy me a hooker. You're gonna get my ass divorced, Eric.
Mysterious Adventure Magazine is a result of my being commissioned by, and eventually befriending, the multi-talented Matt Bennett. Back in the day when I was taking sequential commissions (don't even think about it now, nerds), Matt hit me up for a six page story starring his creation, the Cloak (which appeared in Mysterious Adventure Magazine #2). Through talking about that we discovered that we shared a lot of the same interests and storytelling sensibilities, so when I was ready to put together my own book for Phoenix Comicon 2009, I asked Matt to help me out with the script and do some tones on my line art. That turned in to him writing a couple other stories to be drawn by other artists, and inking another story of mine, all of which formed the first issue of Mysterious Adventure Magazine. It's a black and white anthology comic inspired by the mad pulp stories and old monster flicks of old. My initial wish was for MAM to be a cool, cheap men's magazine that would you could pick up at any grocer or drugstore. Cheap printed products, unfortunately, have gone the way of the dinosaur, and being an actual publisher and dealing with printers and sales is a pain in the ass. But Matt and I, along with our MAM all-star aritsts, are still putting out books. MAM numbers 3 and 4 just premiered at this year's Phoenix Comicon and there is a full-color special in the works. All issues can be found at www.indyplanet.com.
ESQUIVEL: I want everybody to go back and read that last line again. It's okay, nerds. I'll wait.
… No, seriously.
Okay. Everybody see that? Scotty has "made it". He's in Diamond, working for a major publisher, has him name plastered all over Newsarama and Bleeding Cool, AND HE'S STILL PUTTING OUT CREATOR OWNED BOOKS THROUGH INDY PLANET. All while raising a little human being, and working a day job!
How lazy and useless does that make you feel? Really? Being in the same room as Scotty God always makes me hate myself, because his success reminds me that every time I was jerking off in the shower, rereading the complete run of The Invisibles for the 8,000th time or enjoying the company of my friends and family, Scotty God was locked to his drafting table, honing his visual storytelling skills.
Someone inevitably asks "how do you do it? How in God's name do you break in?" at every in-store signing and panel I've ever been a part of, and that right there is how: you have to forget how to sleep.
I'm wracking my brain right now, and I can't recall a single time when I've seen Scotty without a six-day-beard, pencil in (tremoring) hand and those crazy "Oh-my-God-I-haven't-laid-down-in-weeks- somebody-please-fucking-kill-me eyes that have come to be synonymous with the Godlewski brand. Not a one.
Scotty, you mentioned that BOOM! Sought you out because of your work on Mysterious Adventure. Did you mail a copy to one of the editors there? Did someone just happen to stumble upon at their local shop?
Talk to me about your submission process.
Make it a little easier for the rest of us who are trying desperately to follow in your footsteps and point us towards the sympathetic ear that heard you out. We promise we won't tell her or him that you sent us.
I don't think Boom! sought me out as a direct result of my involvement in Mysterious Adventure. Having an actual book that a publisher can look at beats having 5 or 6 loose sample pages any day. But I think the thing that really helped me out the most, other than MAM, was knowing Boom! artist Tony Parker. When Boom! asked Tony if he knew any other artists that may be a good fit for future projects, Tony asked me if he could give them my name. I told him "Absolutely not. I prefer toiling away in anonymity".
Of course I'm joking. Yes, he could give them my name. I auditioned for a couple of different projects before editor extraordinaire, Dafna Pleban, gave me a shot at Codebreakers.
I've never actually submitted stuff to a publisher before. Never even had a formal portfolio review. So my plan of having gigs come to me totally worked. Seriously though, my advice to those aspiring artists would be to get over the whole sleep thing, draw what you see and get yourself a deviantART account. Every single job I've ever landed has come from an email saying "hey, I came across your gallery on deviant…". Writers and editors know there's talent there and that's where they'll be looking.
It's not like you just sat around on your ass all day churning out Gotham Girls slash fiction, though.
You're a hustler. You're not just all over the internet, you make the rounds in the physical world, too. Every time I'm in your neck of the woods for something promotional, no matter how big the gig is, you're there. You're a fixture in the scene.
That's how you know Tony Parker, right?
How long have you been plugging away like that?
Also: now that you've signed on to BOOM!, do you still intend to keep that same convention appearance momentum going, or do you feel like you've paid your dues in that regard and plan on retreating back to stately Godlweski Manor to just hammer out the work?
I've only recently become "a fixture in the scene". I'm not an overly social fellow and don't really go out of my way to meet anyone. I had no idea the Phoenix comic scene was so groovy until I started attending the Tiny Army (www.TinyArmy.com) meetings conducted by Daniel Davis (www.steamcrow.com). That's where I actually met Tony for the first time. And after Ben Glendenning (www.skulljammer.com) found me on deviantART, I was really plugged into the funnybook social circle. Ben knows everyone in the game and he really enjoys pimping his friends. So my recent good fortune is as much a result of my friendship with Tony and Ben as it is my conscious attempt at shunning friends and girls in high school in an effort to render Omega Red's grimace more accurately.
Y'know, I enjoy the idea of conventions more than the actual show. Not that I don't appreciate all the very fine folks who stop by and purchase my wares, but by the end of day two I'm ready to pack it up. Like I said previously, I'm a shy guy by nature and I'm not at all comfortable playing salesman. I enjoy getting to hang out with my peers and heroes post-con far more than my time in the exhibitor hall. Maybe I'll just stop doing sketches on demand. The next time I'm asked to sketch up Wolverine or Deadpool, I'll politely inform the patron that I only draw Rocket Raccoon.
You and I live in Arizona—the most embarrassing, proudly racist state in the union ("the meth lab of democracy", John Stewart called it), but we've still managed to find a "tiny army" of dedicated artists who refuse to use their surroundings as an excuse to concede to complacency and obscurity. That's mighty rad.
So, yeah…you're a pretty—I don't want to say "shy". Maybe "low key". Maybe "reserved" —kind of guy. You definitely let your art speak for you (and it speaks volumes, buddy. Believe you me)
Do you think that you're a little antisocial because you draw comics all of the time, or do you think you draw comics all of the time because you're a little antisocial? Can you recall when you first got serious about putting pencil to paper?
GODLEWSKI: Yeah, I don't remember how I found Tiny Army, but I'm sure glad I did. Daniel runs a great group that includes members from all different artistic mediums – writing, comics, graphic design, film, etc. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't been to a meeting in more than a year, but it's not for lack of want.
I've been more of a reserved dude my whole life. It's a demeanor that lends itself well to the business of comics, in my opinion. Being able to shut myself indoors for 10 or 12 hours at a time and just draw is something that I look forward to. The antisocial uttin isn't something that's wholly intentional, but I'd rather be drawing Spider-Man than making small talk.
At every con and every time someone sees me drawing in public, I get the inevitable "how long have you been drawing?" question. And I have a shit memory, so I don't rightly know. I've been drawing for as long as I can remember, but have only been in to comics for about 17 years or so. I do remember buying Marvel and DC trading cards in the early 90's. I thought the X-Men Series I cards, all drawn by Jim Lee, were the baddest ass things on the planet. Then I found the comics. They were like 100 cards for the same price. I didn't consider drawing comics as a career until I got X-Men #16. There was something about that Andy Kubert cover that really spoke to me. I must have drawn that thing 50 times. Then I started drawing my own shitty comics and making my own characters. And I still make my own shitty comics and characters, only I work for a legit comic outfit on the side.
ESQUIVEL: I concluded an interview with Brandon Graham last week wherein we discussed the idea of The Comic Book Culture vs. The Comic Book Industry, and how people personally deal with trying to make tracks in both worlds.
Are your personal, "shitty" comics and characters something you do just for fun, to keep the act of making comics fresh, or do you still harbor dreams of having them available "at any grocer or drugstore"?
To be crass: do you work for BOOM! as a means to gain notoriety that can be exploited to promote your personal stuff?
It's clear that you're not in this business because you have dollar signs in your eyes. Why work on someone else's book at all when you already have a valid vehicle for self-expression?
GODLEWSKI: Of course the ultimate goal is to make a living producing your own stuff. Right now all of those concepts and characters exist not only to provide content for MAM, but also as a means of flexing some artistic muscles I may not get to use in my freelance stuff. And to remind me every so often just how much fun it is to draw comics. Obviously, with for-hire work you're doing whatever the publisher requires and it may or may not be your cup of tea. So taking a break every once in a while to sketch up the Green Ghost pic or plot a Phantom Ace story recharges those creative batteries and lets me rediscover my love for simply making comics, no matter the content.
I work for Boom! because they came to me and asked me to be a part of their very fine group of professionals. It would be my hope that anyone that enjoys my work on Codebreakers would seek out MAM and any other projects I've been a part of. Or at the very least follow me to my next project, which at the moment will be Dracula: The Company of Monsters. And one of my vehicles for self-expression is my art, which Boom! pays me to produce. Outside of the actual characters and plot, everything else is left up to me – pacing, layouts, angles, line weights, the actual nuts and bolts of the visuals. So those pages are drowning in my storytelling sensibilities, which is pretty satisfying.
ESQUIVEL: Oh, man! My unfuckable-writer-dork-sense is buzzing like crazy right now!
The pacing and layouts are completely up to you? Does that mean that the authors you're paired with present you with something that looks more like a screenplay than a traditional comic script? Is it up to you to break down beats into panels?
Let's push our glasses up the bridge of our collective nose for a minute and talk about craft, and what's expected of you as a Boom! sequential artist. Talk to us about how long your deadlines are, what your actual art duties entail, what your average daily page rate is…y'know: the nitty gritty.
What's your routine?
GODLEWSKI: Well, the scripts I get from Codebreakers writer Carey Malloy are broken down into pages and panels, with some panel descriptions including angles and size, but more often than not it's up to me to determine what you'll actually see. And like any good collaborative experience, if one member of the creative team has a suggestion or idea that they feel will improve the book, it's totally up for discussion. If I think a couple of panels could be combined, or if I need to add a panel or change an angle, I can go to my editor and writer and plead my case. That collaboration process is what would make me happy doing work-for-hire stuff for the rest of my career.
Art-wise, I'm only responsible for pencils and inks. I can utting knock out a page in 7-8 hours, inks and all, but can usually trim it to 4-5 when under the gun. I use Strathmore 300 series smooth utting board, a 4H pencil lead, and Speedball Super Black India ink with a Pentel GFKP pocket brush pen and Hunt 102 and 107 quills. I don't have much of a routine. I try to get to the drawing board as soon as I can after my son goes to bed and draw until I can't see anymore. I usually put on something to listen to while I work. Most times it's some TV show or a movie. The Netflix instant watch feature is my best friend in the middle of the night. I finished the first 5 seasons of Lost that way. In retrospect, that probably had a bit to do with missing deadlines. Damn you, JJ Abrams!
As for being a Boom! artist, specifically, it's been a great experience. I initially turned down the Codebreakers gig because I didn't think I could knock out a monthly book while working a day job, too. Dafna Pleban, my editor, went to bat for me and constructed a 5 week production schedule that would have me completing 22 pages every 33 days. How could I not say yes when she went out of her way to get me on that book? And now I feel like a total shit because I've absolutely abused that generosity by not meeting a single one of my deadlines. I'm sure she's tired of hearing it from me, but I'm really sorry, Dafna.
I'd also like to apologize to Matt Gagnon, Carey Malloy, Stephen Downer and Johnny Lowe – the managing editor, writer, colorist and letterer, respectively. These guys have all had to wait on my slow ass to finish pages and for that I shall be forever sorry. It's a total mental readjustment going from drawing for yourself to being a cog in a publishing machine. Beyond just having to draw whatever the script dictates, getting used to the idea that there are other people waiting on you to do your job so they can do theirs can be difficult. I fell behind early on Codebreakers #1 and have been playing catch up ever since. At the beginning of issue 4 I hit the wall, uttingly. Only getting to draw after 9pm every night for 4 months put me in a coma for about 2 weeks. I couldn't sit down without falling asleep, my willpower being repeatedly kicked in the nuts by utter exhaustion. That actually led me to turn down the new Dracula book, but Matt came back at me with a schedule that would see me do three issues at a time, taking the fourth one off. Again, how could I say no when they continually go out of their way to make me feel wanted all the time?
ESQUIVEL: It's a bummer that doing the work is physically killing you, but the effort sure shows. The books are beautiful. And it sounds like your editors are comfortable with trading speed for quality, so that's pretty rad.
Let's talk about the titles you're currently working on. Codebreakers is in full swing, and press for Dracula: in The Company of Monsters has just begun to roll out.
Give us the inside scoop, sir.
For as late as I've been, the books should look better. Stephen Downer is really saving my bacon.
Inside scoop, huh? Well, Codebreakers is wrapping up. I'm finishing up issue 4 as I write this. My work on issue 4 feels better than it has on the previous issues. I feel like I suck a little less now.
About Dracula… Embarassed as I am to admit it, I don't know any more than you. Kurt Busiek is the series creator and plotter, Daryl Gregory is scripting and Stephen Downer has come to save me again on colors. I haven't seen the script for issue 1 yet and I haven't done any real prelim work, so there's not much to say. The only work I've done on it was a character sketch for Dracula a few months back. My editor asked if I would have time to knock out a character design for Dracula himself. She didn't tell me what or who it was for. I did one, got some notes back and gave it another go. Then she tells me that it's for a new Dracula book by Kurt Busiek and that he was really pleased with my design. A few weeks go by and I get a call from Matt Gagnon, Boom! managing editor, who asks if I'd like to come on as artist on the new Dracula ongoing. I'm totally ready to draw some monsters.
ESQUIVEL: Well, from Busiek's blog post, it sounds like Dracula: The Company of Monsters is some sort of anti-capitalist parable with vampires in it. I'm totally sold.
And Codebreakers rocks super hard. I know you, so I know that you're putting on that adorably self-effacing hat you're so fond of wearing in public, but, for everybody who hasn't picked up Codebreakers yet: you should first reassess your decision making ability and then go out and pick up the lot of 'em.
Codebreakers is a brilliant little series that's essentially "what happens when a bunch of borderline obsessive/compulsive CIA cryptanalysts try to tackle super spy fieldwork?". It has mystery, it has explosions, it has super smart people doing super smart things…it's basically James Bond CSI. I dig it. I dig it a lot.
Did I say "Codebreakers" enough? Codebreakers, Codebreakers, Codebreakers.
And, on that note: thanks for keeping it real. It's refreshing to talk with someone who's so honest about the comic makin' process.
Comics are fun, but they're a bitch and a half to produce. It takes an unhealthy amount of willpower to chain one's self to one's desk for ten hours immediately after getting home from a full shift at the day gig, but all of us who read your stuff are incredibly grateful that you do.
Keep on puttin' 'em out, and we'll keep pickin' 'em up.
Eric M. Esquivel is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel "Horrible Little People", the critically tolerated "Adventures of Bikini Automatic", and the critically despised "Childish Delusions of Grandeur and Superiority". He also wrote a whole bunch of mini comics that the critics know nothing about , and can be found at www.ModernMythologyPress.com
His upcoming works include "Calabrese!" for Spookshow Records, "Pop! Science" for Modern Mythology Press, and "Girl Scouts In Space" for The Girl Scouts of America.
Sometimes he reviews issues of Cyberfrog for www.Bookmans.com.
He used to do boring journalism stuff for The Tucson Citizen, before he decided that he hated money.