Covers by Geof Ishwerwood. Photos from author’s website.
He’s an illustrator, painter, sculptor and part-time teacher. Spider-Man, Thor, Conan the Barbarian, Dr. Strange and Silver Surfer are just a few of the titles on his extensive resume. With a portfolio that speaks for itself, Geoffrey Isherwood—who prefers to go by Geof—has lived his dream by making a living in the arts, a field many have found themselves discouraged to pursue.
The signs that he would pursue artistic ventures, specifically comic books, were visible even at an early age.
“When I was 12 [my parents] told me to stop buying comics,” says Isherwood. “I did anyway. I got a bachelor of fine arts from Concordia University and within a year of graduating I was working with Marvel.”
It wasn’t an overnight process, however, the materialization of his ambitions required a combination of talent, timing and a bit of luck.
“When I was 16-years old, my family took a trip to Manhattan and I snuck into Marvel studios with my drawings and met artists who encouraged me and pointed out things I should work on,” he begins. “I stayed there for 20 minutes and went home. You could walk right into marvel talk to the receptionist and they’d send you to see somebody.”
Would it be possible to do the same today? The longtime Marvel artist says it’s improbable.
“Not at all, not today. There’s a big corporate wall, it’s the like the CIA or something. It’s crazy. Disney all these places, it’s really tough to break in,” he admits. “Nowadays its really about online, a lot of editors look at digital comics and find artists that way or its networking and word of mouth.”
Isherwood’s career path was a self-inflicted and conscious decision that grew out of his love for comic book medium.
“Just as a lot of kids are, and this was the 60s, I was drawn to comic books. I really liked the storytelling aspect of it,” he says. ” I decided when I was ten-years old I wanted to draw comics.”
The illustrator digs deeper into his past as he expands on his childhood.
“I really loved drawing and I wanted to find out what possible career I could get into where I could keep drawing. That’s when I saw a picture of Charles Shultz at home in his studio and I thought that’s what I want to do,” he explains.”I don’t know how I got the crazy idea that I could just wake up, get my breakfast, sit down and draw.”
And that’s exactly what he did. Needless to say, it never left him.
But when he’s too busy with projects, “Geof” recommends up and coming artists for jobs he can’t take.
“Recently for instance, I was able to recommend a young artist to do a comic about Iron Maiden, the Heavy-Metal band, a pseudo-biopic [of mascot] Eddie the Head.”
photo credit: Tommy Morais
Geoff Isherwood during a signing at Comic-Book Addiction, Whitby.
Where do superhero movies fit in the grand scheme of it all? Isherwood argues that movie producers have been effective in bringing the action-packed panels to life over the course of the last decade, something that had previously been lacking. He also points out how studios have benefited from the rich history of comics.
“When you look at what Hollywood has done, they’ve finally been able to bring out the visual aspect of comics that superhero movies had been lacking with special effects,” says the artist. “It took a while, but they’re now realizing the have a gold mine of stories with comics.”
As he points out, the relationship between the artist and the finished product can be a love-hate affair.
“It’s difficult for us artists,” says Isherwood. “If you work on a specific title you become very proprietary of the character, it becomes one of your children.”
The artist highlights the difference between the heroes featured on the big screen and those on the panels inside comic books.
“If you’re watching a movie it’s more passive, but the comic medium is more interactive,” he says. “You have to fill in the action between the panels.”
But what attracts us to comics in the first place? According to Isherwood, it has a lot to do with the characters and the medium itself.
“Its colourful. These characters are modern myths, they’re larger than life. It’s very theatrical and operatic with the grand gestures and the colours,” he says. “It was originally an escape from the war and people bought into that.”
“They still do.”
For more of Geof’s work and upcoming convention appearances you can visit goeffreyisherwood.ca