Exclusive Interview with Claudio Castellini about "Man and Superman: The Deluxe Edition"

[Date: December 3, 2019]

By Steve Younis and Michael Bailey

Thanks to DC Comics, the Superman Homepage was pleased to be able to interview artist Claudio Castellini ahead of the release of "Man and Superman: The Deluxe Edition" hardcover publication.

The Superman Homepage would like to thank Claudio for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his busy schedule.

Q: Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background (both personally and professionally)?

A: On a personal level, I have been a fan of superhero comics since I was very young. I had a natural inclination for art, but when I received my first American comic book, I understood where to direct my efforts. It was John Buscema's work in particular to influence my artistic growth. He was my model, but also the work of other great artists of the golden age, such as Neal Adams and John Romita Sr.

I started in Italy with Sergio Bonelli Editore, and graphically created for them Nathan Never, the first sci-fi serial comic series of the publishing house. It was precisely from the meeting with my "mentor," big John, at an Italian convention that the collaboration with Marvel was born. John greatly appreciated my work on Nathan Never and offered to show it to the editor-in-chief of that period, Tom De Falco, who was very impressed and offered me to work for the "House of Ideas". I was the first Italian artist to collaborate with Marvel from his own country, so in Italy the readers consider me as a pioneer, the one who opened the doors to the next generations. With John began a friendship that lasted for years and I will always be grateful to him for the artistic inspiration he gave me and for the esteem he always showed for my work.

With Marvel, I started drawing all the covers of Fantastic Four Unlimited as an official cover artist, then the graphic novel of Silver Surfer "Dangerous Artifacts", which I consider from a graphic point of view my "opera omnia", and the work that among all those I've done is perhaps the best known in the world (to fans that read comics), Marvel vs. DC. Afterwards I did covers and stories of many other characters like Conan, Spiderman etc. My last job for Marvel was the miniseries Wolverine: The End. I have collaborated with almost all American publishing houses - DC Comics, Dark Horse, Wildstorm, Crossgen. My latest works are for DC, and this leads us to Superman...

Q: How did you land the job of being the artist for "Man and Superman 100-Page Super Spectacular #1"?

A: There have been many collaborations with DC over the years. The first job I did for DC was Marvel vs. DC in collaboration with Marvel, but in the following years (2001) I drew a short story called "The Call" on Batman: Black & White. Then I became the official cover artist of the Batman Gotham Knights series in 2005, and around 2007 I did several covers of "Countdown to Final Crisis". After that, DC had entrusted me with an internal story, entitled "Torment", which would have been released in numbers 37 and 38 of the title Superman/Batman. I was at work on this story and I had already laid out the layouts of the first issue on paper when suddenly DC informed me about Superman Confidential project, where they wanted their selection of artists. I was chosen and redirected to that miniseries in preparation, even at the cost of abandoning the work on "Torment", for them it was more important that I drew Superman. Obviously, I was honored with the proposal and I accepted. That Superman / Batman story was entrusted to another internal artist, while I made the two variant covers.

Q: Marv Wolfman knew early on that his story for "Man and Superman 100-Page Super Spectacular #1" was one of the best things he'd every written. Were you aware of that fact and did it add any further pressure to ensuring your art lived up to his expectations for the story?

A: Honestly, at that moment my interlocutor was the editor Michael Marts as I did not have a direct relationship with Marv. Certainly having a script from him in my hands has produced a great emotion and a great sense of responsibility on me. Reading the script I realized by myself that I had a great story to draw, very different from any other I had realized for American comic books, but I still didn't know that Marv considered it as one of the best things he had written. The fact that DC had chosen me to interpret that story made me understand that they evidently considered me the right artist for him, and I certainly didn't want to disappoint their expectations.

Q: What was it like collaborating with Marv? What was that process like?

A: In those years, as mentioned, my relationship with Marv was not direct. Everything went through the editor. Only recently, when the project, put in a drawer for years, was finally exhumed, our relationship has been very close; we consulted frequently to refine the work, and we exchanged opinions, ideas and expressions of mutual esteem. It has been a wonderful experience for me. Marv is not only the great writer we know, but also a very kindly person always willing to present an appreciation, a real gentleman.

Q: The Deluxe Edition of "Man and Superman" will be released on November 20. It contains some wonderful bonus material, including Marv's original proposal, his final draft of the script, and your complete artistic process from sketches, pencils, inks, through to coloring. It's an impressive publication. How do you feel about this Deluxe Edition's release?

A: As far as my personal experience is concerned, it is perhaps the most complete publication of extra content concerning the making of a work in my career. I've had other very satisfying ones, but never at this level, as you say the amount of material that DC was willing to put in is impressive.

Thanks to the editor Alex Galer, from whom I had the maximum collaboration and support, I could take a long time to choose, prepare and compose all the material, adding the commentaries for each step; we were very excited about the idea of packaging this book in the best way.

I had the opportunity to show the reader the preparatory sketches, which I study separately and manually still according to the old school, and above all, it was important for me to highlight, through some examples of pages chosen among the many, all the improvements I made recently for the published version. There were little tweaks everywhere that make today's pages more accurate than they were 10 years ago. In some cases, there were also quite substantial additions, such as backgrounds where before the panel was empty.

Q: It's obvious from these bonus pages that you did a lot of preliminary work for this story. How long did the entire process take?

A: When the job was given to me about ten years ago it took me about a year. On the occasion of the recent release, when I rechecked my work again after all these years, I saw a lot of room for improvement and I went back to retouching the pages in all aspects – refining some drawings, making some panels more detailed, checking the symmetry of some faces, adding shadows and more backgrounds. This second work of "simple" revision has taken me about three-four months.

As for the preliminary work, I study in detail every single panel correcting the errors and refining the drawing before bringing it on the definitive sheet. It is part of my working method which I explain well in the volume. This preliminary work carried out separately takes more time than drawing directly on the sheet, but allows you to have more control over the quality of your work and correspondence with the script, each character must act like a movie.

Q: You're not only the penciller and inker on "Man and Superman," but you also did much of the coloring (with Hi-Fi). Most comic books artists only pencil or ink a story. You were involved in pencilling, inking and coloring the entire book (as well as the covers). Whose decision was that? Is that your preference to work that way?

A: With my Italian artistic background, I've become used to being prepared to take care of all aspects of the drawing and try to be a complete artist. So in fact, I am penciller, inker and colorist, but many comics artists are. The diversification between the different roles of artistic creation is sometimes due more than anything else to a production mechanism linked to deadlines schedule. In this case, being an authorial project, independent of a serial release, we have had more time. So it was my decision, which was well received by DC that gave me freedom to supervise all the artistic aspects of production, including regarding the choice of the best place to place balloons in order not to cover important portions of the art. Definitively, this is the way I prefer to work.

As for the Hi-fi coloring, he already did a very professional job on the first edition, coloring my pages with a modern and vibrant palette. In Deluxe edition I wanted to add to his work another refinishing step of detail, which on the occasion of the first publication it has been not possible to do either to him or to me for reasons of deadlines time. Moreover, since as I was telling you, I am also a colorist, when I draw in black and white I actually already have a vision of coloring in my mind. So what I did in this version is to personalize some scenes from a chromatic point of view, adapting them that to my personal vision but always respecting the work already done by Hi-Fi. It has been a team job, even if done in later times and by overlapping.

Q: Would you like to work on Superman again if the opportunity presented itself?

A: Without a doubt, Superman is one of the characters that I love to draw the most, and I would certainly like to continue to tie my name to this character, especially in regard to the production of covers.

Q: What are you currently working on, and where can comic book fans see more of your work?

A: I have to tell that from about ten years, exactly after the completing of this Superman story, I made the decision to withdraw from the publishing world to dedicate myself to that of collecting. The reasons are due both to the increasingly frenetic work rhythms (deadlines), which do not meet my artistic needs, and also to some aspects in the comic books that I think over the years have become increasingly marked, as in the rest of the world of entertainment. I refer to some contents of violence that, in my opinion, is sometimes free and explicit and which seems to be quite frequent now even in superhero genre. So I took the personal decision not to represent and convey these contents with my art and I chose to move away from these trend because it is not compatible with what in which I believe as a Christian.

Marv's story is one of the exceptions, which is one of the reasons why I consider it really special, because it transmits positive values – Superman acts like a comics hero should, without resorting to unnecessary acts of force. That's why I wouldn't mind returning to draw something about this character, as covers for example, because I consider him as one of the few superheroes still with a high ethical code. But this is only a possibility. Currently, I continue with pleasure to dedicate myself to the world of private collecting and all those who wish to follow my latest works can follow my FB page, where I publish my recent artworks.

Thank you!

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This interview is Copyright © 2019 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.



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