WRITER VS. ARTIST: Jeff Parker Vs. Carlo Pagulayan

Thu, April 16th, 2009 at 8:28am PDT

Comic Books
Jeff Parker, Guest Writer

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"Agents of Atlas" #5 on sale in May

Back again is the irregular CBR feature in which I, Jeff Parker, shop-talk with an artist -- usually a collaborator of mine because that's easier, but I'm probably going to branch out soon -- so process-junkies out there can get some more insight into what kind of thought goes into making comics.

This week, I'm directing my living-laser-like focus on Carlo Pagulayan, who you may have seen gracing the pages of Marvel Comics’ new “Agents of Atlas” series. Working with Carlo is especially neat for me, as he drew some of the first stories I wrote for Marvel in the “Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four” series. Now here we are five years later working on an even stranger team.

Story continues below

Jeff Parker: Okay, Carlo, what did you make of this project when our editor asked you to draw it? Did you think I was dragging you into insanity with me? Or did you just see the gorilla and think, "Yes."

Carlo Pagulayan: To be honest, and my apologies to you, Jeff, I've never read “Agents” before. I live two hours away from the nearest comics shop and no one, prior to this, suggested to me this book. Although when I brought it up, they were suddenly enthusiastic and forceful that I give it a read. I researched it on the Marvel Digital Comics site, though I get uncomfortable reading a comic on the PC. Anyway, it piqued my interest because of the oddity of it all. I looked around the net about the guys and the way you've developed them was really great, slightly out there with regards to the usual Marvel teams, but uniquely comfortable within the universe.

And It wasn't Gorilla Man that made me visually interested in it, it was Namora... then Ken, then Venus. Actually, I was having second thoughts because of Ken. I haven't drawn a gorilla until this book, and it was fun. Drawing Venus was also ahem… pleasing.

Namora

Whew, glad we made the cut. That damn gorilla, you want him off the team, he's out of here! We'll send assistant editor Lauren to go tell him, though.

One of my favorite depictions of yours is the way you draw Mr. Lao, the dragon advisor to the Atlas Empire. You worked up a 3D model for him to help figure him out, didn't you?

A digital sculpt, mainly to serve as a reference to maintain a consistent image of Lao.

Sculpt of Mr. Lao

When I first tried to draw him for studies, I often went towards a stylized dragon. I wanted to ground him in reality, since my drawing of the team was leaning in that direction. I had done a couple of 3D dragon heads before so I thought it would be fun to do a third. Once we had done the tweaks, it served as my virtual maquette so that I don't get lost. Makes it a lot easier to imagine his expressions, as it was difficult for me to give him recognizable expressions without becoming goofy. Helps a lot on the shadows too. You should try Zbrush, it's really fun. Also once I go 64-bit, I’m looking forward to sculpt a full figure Ken hale!

Mr. Lao

You do not fear technology. Do you have some kind of special source or image search tricks for all the weaponry you draw? Because you make all the armament very convincing (by the way, apologies for all the weaponry I ask for).

Prior to “Agents,” I managed to break through the Pentagon’s firewall… Nope, it’s the same as everyone’s; Google and Flickr gives very good hits and one can always play around with Sketchup. When sketching, I usually mash several guns and odd shapes. Do we get fees for mentioning those search engines?

Most of my weapon drawings are very diluted Travis Charest designs. And my earlier firearms designs are heavily influenced by Charest or Jim Lee, only now I've started thinking about the logic of the design and their fictional functions. Still looks amateurish though.

Pagulayan's weapons

Masamune Shirow can also be extremely influential. Speaking of which, are you the same Jeff Parker who owns Appleseed figures? Hehe, because a review of those toys made me buy one.

I know who you're talking about, he's the Jeff Parker that reviews toys. Not me!

Okay- what haven't I done yet with the scripts that you might be expecting? You tell me where in the world you want the Agents to go and I'll make it happen.

Hmmm... They haven't gone back to China yet, I think with the relation China has with the US would be interesting. Or Mongolia for exploring Genghis Khan ties. I'm tempted to suggest The Philippines, but no logical reason comes to mind.

Hey Gorilla, we're in Manilla! To quote a famous boxer. I did like the brief glimpse we saw when The Sentry was saving lives in the Philippines, so maybe we can get them there. We definitely have them going back to China and Mongolia later in the year though.

Pagulayan's weapons

Hey yeah, Thrilla in Manila, a mall was named after Ali because of that fight. Thanks for going along with that Sentry scene, and I just spotted it, Jason did draw himself in on that page.

Speaking of The Philippines, what's in the water there that makes it have a disproportionately high number of great artists? Can you finally answer that for us? As a kid, I was first hit by them in the Warren magazines, guys like Alfredo Alcala and Alex Nino, just incredible artists. Probably who floored me most early on was Nestor Redondo- I was hunting around for old issues of the original “Swamp Thing” because I was so into Bernie Wrightson, and found the issues that Redondo did following him and couldn't believe it. It was like classical painting transformed into comics art somehow, to me at the time. You're from a land of Giants!

Not water, but there is always this milk brand which claims to produce gifted kids. Must be made from terrigen mist. America still has more Giants!

I guess the Philippines has always been a melting pot of cultures. And since there is so much art to get influenced with, kids naturally get crazy drawing. It’s the same with musicians here. I was heavily influenced by the ‘90s western art. What’s real abundant here is the manga/anime influence. And that couldn’t be more apparent in local cons, where I don’t know 9/10 of what characters are being cosplayed.

Redondo, Alcala, Tanghal and everybody else, all had influences from the realistic artworks from America -- Frazetta and Booth among them. There was also Francisco Coching (one of their major influence, probably the root) who probably trumps Redondo and the others, although he never did draw in the States. Sadly, only too few know about them. I myself was clueless about most of them until about six yrs ago, when Gerry Alanguilan made his online museum. (http://alanguilan.com/museum/) One could spot a familiar Filipino name in the books, during my high school years, but it was still the internet dark ages so I couldn’t verify it. And comics has waned here since the late ‘80s, and comics fandom wasn’t always as big as it is there.

These guys and their drawings are like fine art compared to my drawings. And all of them knew how to paint. Real paint. That’s probably why they draw with brushes. When I say draw with brushes, really draw with brushes. I saw an unfinished drawing (can’t remember whose, I think Redondo’s) where the sketch was more of a mangled draft of squiggly lines. Very unrecognizable, and over it are the start of those black purposeful brush strokes, very easily forming the familiar contours of a man. I couldn’t figure out if I was depressed or amazed or which was more.

And thanks to the growing awareness, a lot of the old legends including Sir Alex Niño are getting appreciated by more of the younger generation. And through those young’uns’ efforts of organizing a talk, I finally got to meet him. I had also met Tony de Zuñiga a month earlier, so I’m being a fanboy as of late.

I just got back from the Emerald City Show in Seattle where Alex Niño was, but somehow I never saw him! Bad timing on my part.

Then there was another wave of cartoonists in the ‘80s like Whilce Portacio and Romeo Tanghal, and now guys like you and Leinil Yu are essentially the latest wave of Filipino heavy hitters.


Whilce Portacio was, I think, the second guy to open up the connection to America, the first was de Zuñiga. He paved the way for Leinil, Gerry, Edgar Tadeo, Nick Manabat, Gilbert Monsanto, and was also influential in the formation of a local comics group. I tried to get in that group, but college was in the way (not that college is a bad thing, kids).

Leinil, by the way, is in a league of his own, When we pay him a visit, we just gawk over all his drawings. In the future, we plan to steal some pages… sshhhh…

And Mr. Yu has been cool enough to do a few consecutive covers for us. Steal one for me!

"Agents of Atlas" #6

Hey yeah, Thrilla in Manila, a mall was named after Ali because of that fight. Thanks for going along with that Sentry scene, and I just spotted it, Jason did draw himself in on that page.

Speaking of The Philippines, what's in the water there that makes it have a disproportionately high number of great artists? Can you finally answer that for us? As a kid, I was first hit by them in the Warren magazines, guys like Alfredo Alcala and Alex Nino, just incredible artists. Probably who floored me most early on was Nestor Redondo- I was hunting around for old issues of the original “Swamp Thing” because I was so into Bernie Wrightson, and found the issues that Redondo did following him and couldn't believe it. It was like classical painting transformed into comics art somehow, to me at the time. You're from a land of Giants!

Not water, but there is always this milk brand which claims to produce gifted kids. Must be made from terrigen mist. America still has more Giants!

I guess the Philippines has always been a melting pot of cultures. And since there is so much art to get influenced with, kids naturally get crazy drawing. It’s the same with musicians here. I was heavily influenced by the ‘90s western art. What’s real abundant here is the manga/anime influence. And that couldn’t be more apparent in local cons, where I don’t know 9/10 of what characters are being cosplayed.

Thanks a lot, Carlo. I think I'll end with some pencils from the upcoming throw-down brawl in “Agents” #5, where Atlas slams into the New Avengers. And readers can get an idea of the subtle stuff that Jason Paz then has to translate to the ink stage.

Jason, other than being a very good inker, is an outstanding illustrator as well. I mean, he does draw himself in pages without me knowing. Sneaky bastard. A bit obsessive compulsive, which I think is most inkers’ trait. He is a good friend of one of your regular readers at your blog, Butch, the one who sent in spy shots!

Butch is a loyal reader who will not be assassinated by the Atlas Foundation any time soon.

And Jeff, what have you been taking to keep churning out these fun stories? Reading through your stories always were a mix of classic comics with a modern appeal, I rarely see it these days.

Thanks, I'm just trying to get a real pulp novel sensibility going with this book, and it automatically makes for fun. I think. At any rate, it seems to naturally generate imagery that clicks with cartoonists like you and Gabriel Hardman, which makes me happy to open my email when I see the word "PAGE" in the subject header.

Thanks for doing this, I know it's tough doing an extended dialogue when English isn't your first language, and if we were depending on me to get things across in Tagalog, this would have taken a few years.

Back to the drawing board with you! For spoilery fun, I'll end by showing a double-page spread of Carlo's pencils with the Agents throwing down with the New Avengers. Enjoy.

Agents vs. New Avengers!

For even more "Agents of Atlas," check out the following preview pages from issue #5, on sale next month from Marvel Comics.

TAGS:  agents of atlas, jeff parker, carlo pagulayan, marvel comics, writer vs. artist

 
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