The Amazing Artistry of Paolo Rivera

The acclaimed artist talks about his career so far and revealing Spider-Man's secrets!

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By Marc Strom

Paolo Rivera made a name for himself with his painted artwork on the series of MYTHOS one-shots retelling the origins of some of Marvel's most famous characters, but the artist has recently put his paintbrush aside to contribute artwork to various other projects.

Now, in perhaps his biggest assignment yet, Rivera will team up with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada to tell the story of what happened on the day of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane's Wedding in "One Moment in Time," beginning on July 21 in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #638.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #638 preview art by Paolo Rivera
"I grew up in my parents' art supply store, so looking back, it seems like destiny," tells Rivera of his beginnings as an artist. "I didn't really begin painting in earnest until college, but I tried, with more or less success, throughout my life. On the most basic level, I love color. But then again, I haven't met many people who don't."

Though he began painting, the artist quickly gravitated towards comics as the medium that truly interested him.

"I decided on comics fairly early on, but it didn't look like a real possibility to me-or my parents-until the end of high school," recalls Rivera. "Once I decided on art school, however, it was my main goal within the context of illustration, my chosen major. I actually began working for Marvel before I graduated, thanks to [writer] Jim Krueger, who had supported me and my work from high school onwards. I met him at Megacon when he signed my EARTH X books and I e-mailed him afterwards. It was through him that I corresponded with Joe Quesada, who hired me on the spot, via e-mail, no less. I still remember getting his e-mail while sitting in my school's computer lab. I think I may have screamed."

Growing up, Rivera looked to a number of artists for inspiration as he learned his craft.

"While there are way too many artists to name, I can significantly shorten the list to those I copied growing up: Jim Lee, Mark Bagley, Art Adams, Joe Madureira, and Alex Ross, the last two being the most frequent inspirations," he notes. "Of course, Ross had the most noticeable effect. My current idols are Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff, and Alex Toth, who

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #639 preview art by Paolo Rivera
supposedly idolized the former two. I just recently discovered Joe Orlando, who has already reached the goal I didn't even know I was running towards, [and] half a century ago, no less."

When it comes to picking what stories to work on, Rivera reveals that he leaves much of that up to his editors.

"To be honest, my editors usually assign me the story, but they-most often Steve Wacker and friends-always have my best interests and tastes in mind when orchestrating projects," he explains. "They know what I like and are very patient with me."

Rivera will pencil and ink "One Moment in Time" instead of painting it, helping him produce work at a faster rate.

"The storytelling process is essentially the same, it just takes a lot less time," remarks Rivera. "This is the main thing that has allowed me to take on a longer story like 'One Moment in Time,' something that painting precluded. In fact, this is the first time I've done anything longer than a one-shot. One unforeseen benefit from O.M.I.T. is that I've gotten better and faster at penciling; I'm a far better cartoonist than I was a year ago. Furthermore, my artwork is becoming less precious to me, which is very desirable with regard to sequential work. Story should always come first."

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #639 preview art by Paolo Rivera
Between the two styles, Rivera admits, "I definitely prefer my new style for storytelling. I still love to paint, but it's best used for things like covers and pin-ups."

Rivera "absolutely" noticed a difference working from Quesada's scripts, given the Editor-in-Chief's background as an artist.

"I didn't realize it at first," he elaborates. "When sketching layouts for the first issue, I was about halfway through before I noticed how much easier it was compared to previous projects. I've had the pleasure of working with great writers since I started at Marvel-guys who know how to tell a great story through sequential images-but there's usually at least one scene per book that proves to be a real challenge in terms of staging, motion, or legibility. In working from Quesada's script, the visual solution was immediately apparent to me for each and every panel, and any significant drawing difficulties were self-induced challenges.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to work with a character I love, especially for such a high-profile project. I've put everything I've got into this story, so I sincerely hope people enjoy it."

 

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