Just when it seemed artist David Marquez’s creative life could not get any better, mere weeks before his new MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN series with writer Brian Michael Bendis went on sale Marvel revealed his name as one of its up and coming All-New Young Guns for 2014.
Read what it took for Marquez to get to this level of acclaim as well as his unabashed love for working in the “best toy box,” aka the Marvel Universe.
Marvel.com: You recently paid tribute to your high school art teacher who is retiring. You said you would likely not be in comics were it not for her. Can you tell a little bit about her role in shaping your path to comics? How did you first break into comics? When and how did you start working for Marvel?
David Marquez: I fell into art at a pretty early age; I think it was in second grade when I got my first bit of strong positive reinforcement. I had done this drawing at the end of class and everyone gathered around oohing and aahing. I guess it's kind of like a drug, and I kept chasing that feeling. By the time I was in high school I knew I loved art, but didn't really see it as a viable career option, a view reinforced very strongly by my parents. But I was still drawing and got into the AP art class my senior year, taught by Ms. Stiffel. I had a number of conversations with her about how torn I was about what do with my art, fantasizing about doing it professionally but not really expecting it to ever be a real thing. While I can't remember her exact words, she encouraged me to continue drawing and that, with enough hard work, anything was possible, and that she saw something in me, and expected that I might even do really well on the business side of comics. At that age it's so easy to just be filled with doubt, and the feeling that someone else believes in you can do wonders. It certainly did for me.
Now, it was a long time until I broke into comics; I landed my first paying comics gig at San Diego Comic Con in 2009, and that book, Syndrome, hit shelves in the fall of 2010. The writer on the project, R.J. Ryan, had found my work online and suggested me for the project. At that same San Diego in 2009 I had bumped into C.B. Cebulski on the show floor and introduced myself, and walked away with his business card. So every six weeks or so, almost like clockwork, I submitted my newest four to five pages in a simple, polite e-mail and hoped for the best. But in the meantime I kept drawing and finding work elsewhere. As time wore on I improved enough that Marvel saw something they liked in my work, and I was brought into consideration for a fill-in gig on SECRET WARRIORS. After a month or so of back-and-forth, submitting samples and character sketches, they gave me the gig. This was at the end of 2010. I skipped my 10-year high school reunion to nail the deadline. And Marvel has kept in touch ever since!
Marvel.com: Over the years as your career has advanced, what do you think it is about your art that clearly clicked with editors and made them want to hire you?
David Marquez: Obviously I wasn't privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations, and it's so hard to say what any one person may like in my art—it's all so subjective. But I have heard people say they respond to the dynamic action and strong acting or characterization; these are two things I really love drawing and spend a lot of time and effort on. Beyond that, I'm fast and reliable, two things I know any big publisher really values. It's been very important to me from day one to be professional, and maybe that hearkens back to what Ms. Stiffel had said way back in high school.
Marvel.com: You have a unique eye for layout and execute some great action-filled and acrobatic scenes. When tackling scenes do you sketch them out from different POVs before arriving on the one that appeals to you the most?
David Marquez: Thanks! It's always tough trying to find just the right shot—sometimes the script has a specific description of how the scene should look, and if I can easily picture it sometimes it goes straight on the page without any difficulty. But most of the time I do try out several different approaches in little thumbnail sketches, looking for the one that—most importantly—tells the story clearly, but also has the right impact, whether that's in action or a big emotional beat or what have you. And there are some pretty standard starting places: for big action, you can move the “camera” so that it's looking up or down on the action, or zoomed in super close then pulling out, or vice versa. Often it's about accentuating or exaggerating the action, a whole lot like how performance on stage is always at least a little bigger than normal. But for personal moments I often do the opposite: I really focus on the subtle little expressions that can sell, confused horror, say, and distinguish it from simple surprise. And for that, often a real nice close-up gives the reader a chance to really see what's going on. But no matter how much fun it may be to play with crazy camera angles or creative layouts, the story always has to come first. Storytelling is always first.
Marvel.com: Looking back on some of your recent work, how much of an adrenaline rush was it to tackling a project like CATACLYSM: ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN?
David Marquez: The event was huge, and getting to see Mark Bagley, the original ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN artist and a huge influence, draw Miles [Morales] was such a kick! But as with anything I draw, for me it really boils down to the characters and what they go through emotionally. We saw Miles have to deal not only with the impending destruction of the world, but he was also abandoned by his sole remaining parent. So while the Ultimate Universe survived, his world in a very real way, end.
Marvel.com: Can you chat a bit about some of the high points with working on ALL-NEW X-MEN?
David Marquez: Team books are a challenge, I won't lie. So many characters to draw and one has to make each one look and act distinct—there are so many moving parts! But it's the kind of challenge that excites me whenever I sit down to draw. I love the X-Men and that book more than any other is what really sucked me into reading comics as a kid. So getting to draw them now as an adult and as a professional artist working for Marvel is just such an incredible experience. And to boot, I got to draw the book while it was being written by Brian Michael Bendis who, in addition to being such an incredible creative partner, is also a dear friend. It really was such a kick, and I hope to dabble a bit more in the X-Verse in the future!
Marvel.com: How much his your art style grown since 2012's FANTASTIC FOUR: SEASON ONE?
David Marquez: Funny you should ask—I was just flipping through some of my older work not too long ago, including FANTASTIC FOUR: SEASON ONE. Looking back at it now, I can see that I was really trying to solidify my style in terms of storytelling and composition, and even line work; it was all very clean and "safe," and in general I think I had a pretty good grasp on what I was trying to accomplish. Since then I've grown more confident as an artist and I've started experimenting more with the use of heavy blacks and texture in my line work, and with less “by the book” approaches to storytelling and layout; especially with the first few issues of MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, I can see a lot of what's been thinking about starting to bear fruit. I feel like I'm in the middle of a kind of style evolution, and I'm really excited about where it's going.
Oh, and I used to draw really, really tiny noses. Maybe I still do!
Marvel.com: Is there a short list of Marvel characters you'd love to draw at some point, but have not yet?
David Marquez: As far as guest stars I don’t know; honestly I'm really excited for the new series to really focus on Miles again, since I'm so in love with the character. But are there other Marvel characters I'd love to draw at some point? I've already gotten to draw Cloak and Dagger, two of my favorite childhood characters, so that's awesome, but I'd also love to draw Moon Knight at some point. And I'm always up for more X-Men! Really, I'm living in the best toy box any one could wish for: Marvel Comics! Every day I get to draw something awesome and that's more than enough for me!
Follow David’s work on MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and keep following Marvel.com for more coverage of the All-New Young Guns!