By Kiel Phegley
Fans who have seen Khoi Pham on the convention circuit or followed the MIGHTY AVENGERS artist's career back to his days on X-FACTOR may have heard a that the 2009 Marvel Young Gun worked full-time as a trial lawyer before getting his start at Marvel.
We're here to tell you that isn't exactly true—Pham worked full-time as a trial lawyer while
getting his start at Marvel!
"With X-FACTOR, I was working full time as an attorney—trying homicide cases and all sorts of crazy things—during the day, and so I really only had a couple of hours a week to put out a monthly book," recalls Pham of his artistic trial by fire.
Aside from the law degree the artist holds from the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania, Pham also boasts an M.B.A. "None of that says art," he laughs now, adding that even though he holds no formal art training, the transition from law to comics proved an easier one that one might expect.
"The transition wasn't that bad because I've always considered myself a professional student—or sometimes a perpetual student," he explains. "But you kind of learn how to learn. That can apply to everything: drawing, playing guitar, playing basketball, shooting pool. I really don't see why anybody can't do what I do. It's not that shocking because anybody can learn it."
On second examination, Pham admits that one thing did give him a leg up on his artistic career: the advice and support of Marvel's talent department including early boosters Chris Allo and C.B. Cebulski.
"I see it as being lucky to have so many good people helping me out," he says. "I think I'm pretty decent. Like, I don't think I'm undeserving of all this stuff, but it's still pretty weird, so I've got to credit it to all the good help I get."
Pham's rise to the big leagues came quick, and he credits that to his focus on learning fast while pulling double duties as a legal eagle.
"My objective was, 'The art is not going to be where I want it to be. I'm going to accept that and work on my storytelling.' Especially when [writer] Peter David on X-FACTOR had all this fantastic dialogue, it was a matter of how I could make these pages exciting. I had to pick a point to work on, and it couldn't be the art. I didn't have the time to make the art where I wanted it."
When he made the move from the X-Universe to INCREDIBLE HERCULES, Pham adapted his style to match the gig, gaining him new readers and new acclaim—although the artist credits much of his more focused style to the contributions of his collaborators.
"When HERCULES rolled around, I had the time and opportunity to work on the art more," he recalls. "I quit being a trial lawyer and moved over to juvenile law, which is less stressful. Plus, I played hooky, which enabled me to work more on my art. And I was lucky enough to get [inker] Paul Neary, who is great to work with. And [colorist] Stephane Peru was an amazing talent we lost too soon."
Through a whirlwind run with Brian Michael Bendis on the Secret Invasion flashback chapters of MIGHTY AVENGERS, Pham did his best to keep his head while his career grew by leaps and bounds.
"The whole Secret Invasion experience was difficult," he admits. "It was like being in the major leagues and then getting to play with the Yankees—and I hate the Yankees, by the way. But you have to do things a certain way. They win because they're a professional caliber team."
All in all, the artist expects that his style will continue to evolve as he moves into a new run on MIGHTY with writer Dan Slott.
Hank Pym sketch
"I feel like Tiger Woods. He came out awesome and said, 'I want to win forever' so he changed his swing and overhauled his whole game. And then for a few years, he just couldn't win anything. As soon as he got comfortable with his new swing and incorporated the things he learned on tour—that guy's unstoppable now. That's how I see myself. Sometimes I may take a step back, and you'll have to deal with my growing pains, but the long term goal is to make myself a permanent thing and not just a flash in the pan."
Take a look at more by Khoi Pham on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited! And keep it here for more Young Guns Spotlights!
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