My interview with an artist from Marvel comics

Feature, Interviews, Uncategorized

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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

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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.”

He pauses.

“They still do.”

 

 

For more of Geof’s work and upcoming convention appearances you can visit goeffreyisherwood.ca

 

 

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Batman, the joker and one long overdrawn joke

Misc, Movie reviews, Uncategorized

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Just remember. “All it takes is one bad day…”        DC Comics


 

A celebrated, yet often divisive and debated entry in the Batman library, The Killing Joke is dear to a many a Bat fan’s heart. While there’s room to ague the comic’s rank and merits, there is no denying Alan Moore’s brainchild is one of the darkest, most sadistic Joker stories ever put to paper.

In The Killing Joke, the Joker went over the edge —even by Joker standards. He no longer behaves like a lunatic buffoon, the man who laugh is out to prove a point: all is takes is one bad day to reach insanity. The story represents a case in character study, examines the morbid aspects of human nature and what drives a sociopath from a comic book’s point of view—essentially its a deliciously macabre Joker origin story.

I love that DC didn’t change the main story and formula too much. The Killing Joke is already a memorable chapter for Batman and the Joker, it didn’t need to be tinkered with or alternated in any shape or form. The animated film adaptation did quite well in regards to staying on par with the comic.

The main gripe I have with The Killing Joke is with its first 30 minutes where material that wasn’t in the book was added. Sure it’s related to the story and they did their best to tie it in but the storyline they tried to develop for Barbara Gordon/Batgirl simply didn’t work as well as DC might have anticipated.

 

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DC promo

 

Barbara/Batgirl is a pivotal character in The Killing Joke, therefore it is understandable that DC wanted to give its audience a semblance of insight as to her personality. I’ll give the writers credit for trying to add to Batgirl’s story, but rather than attain its desired effect it feels like it was merely pasted onto the original story to stretch out the film. The further dialogue and backstories really didn’t end up adding anything crucial. Although I won’t go into details, Batgirl’s relationship with Batman in the film was in particularly poor taste and very much unlike the character fans have known.

I was happy to see a few of my favourite lines from the comic were left intact as there are many memorable quotes. As a fan, hearing the words I’ve read so many times over being brought to life by Mark Hamill was fantastic. At The Killing Joke‘s apex, the satisfying confrontation and word exchange between Batman and the Joker kept the same spirit as its source. The dialogue isn’t always on point however. One “joke” in particular is in bad taste. A criminal receiving a beating courtesy of Batgirl looks at her and says, “Must be that time of the month”. BadCringe-worthy.

Speaking of Mark Hamill, his voice acting is possibly the best aspects of The Killing Joke. Hamill as made left his mark on the comic book genre with his work as the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and various Batman video games.

The animated film doesn’t quite match the intensity or pace of the comic largely due to its first part. They managed to get some of the art direction right yet the tone of the story isn’t as dark and perverse, but it tries. The Killing Joke falls short in its attempt to prolong the story, but it is a very faithful adaptation of its comic counterpart.

At an hour and sixteen minutes (including credits) it is by no means a long Batman film, however it feels longer due to added Batgirl backstory which decidedly does not work in its favour. Do yourself a favour and skip the first half-hour of movie, you won’t regret it. 3 stars.