Exclusive Ron Garney Interview

[Date: September 2, 2004]

Ron Garney is a comic book artist currently working on JLA (written by Chuck Austen). Ron's previous work includes stints on "Hulk", "Captain America", and "Silver Surfer" for Marvel Comics, while also having done the JLA: OUR WORLDS AT WAR one-shot for DC Comics. In August 2003 Ron signed a two-year exclusive contract with DC Comics.

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

Interview by John-Paul Zito

JLA #101 Q: Can you please tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

A: I'm an Illustrator whose been working in comics for about 15 years. I grew up in the northwestern part of Connecticut. I'm 6'2, two hundred twenty pounds, brown hair, green eyes, love my dog, my girl, my harley, and comics.

Q: When did you first become interested in comic books?

A: Well my earliest experience with them dates back to about 1969. I read them and Warren Publications in the seventies. (Creepy, Eerie, Famous Monsters, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Vampirella, etc.) I was a big sci-fi/fantasy nut growing up. From Godzilla, Star Trek on through.

Q: What was your first comic book?

A: Geez that's a tough one. I think it may have been a Kirby drawn Fantastic Four comic. That seems to be my first memory. I used to read alot of adventure comics not just superheroes. Magnus Robot Fighter. There seemed to be alot more variety to choose from back then. I remember a story in the back of a Gold Key comic called 'Moomba' - about a petrified tree imbued with the spirit of an evil god that stole peoples souls. lol

Q: Did you have any formal art training or are you self taught?

A: Well I always had an interest and ability at a very young age - like three years old - in drawing. Because of that, I sought out the formal training, and eventually attended Southern Connecticut University for art. I believe it's best when you do both. Seek it out yourself, teach yourself what you can in addition to formal training. Formal training is nothing to be scared of - if you love the craft it wont seem like more work.

JLA #102 Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to work on comic books?

A: Not til after college. I had forgotten about comics for about a decade - still into fantasy art though, which is what I wanted to do eventually. A friend of mine was reading a couple of comics behind the bar we worked at and I got hooked all over again. That was in 1985. 'Evening of the Witch' was one of them, a John Byrne written and drawn Fantastic Four story. The other was "Secret Wars" I think and I was fascinated with the idea of all of the heroes brought together to fight the cosmic menace known as the 'Beyonder'. It brought the kid out in me all over again. Whether the story was good or bad it was the idea of it that sold me.

Q: How did you go about becoming a comic book artist? What was your first big break into the industry?

A: Well I knew I wanted to do something with art after college and the idea of doing comics never occured to me until after my friend had those comics behind the bar. Then it just struck me. I loved storytelling, movies and camera work, drawing and compositions, and here was the short form - and long form - of all of that rolled into one. It seemed very challenging and larger than life and unattainable to me at that time. So I entered the Marvel try-out contest, and got a polite no thank you. I think Mark Bagley won. That fueled my fire though. I had always been able to draw better than most of my classmates when I was growing up - then by the time I got to college and the Marvel try out, it was a very humbling experience realizing how much talent was out there. I grew up in a very reclusive area in Connecticut, so there wasn't alot of competition which caused me to take my abilities for granted for awhile. Anyway after working on samples in 1985 I found out strangely enough that Mike Zeck lived in my area, and he happened to be the guy who penciled 'Secret Wars'. I showed him my stuff and eventually he brought me up to Marvel and DC and introduced me to their editors. I got a couple of calls the next day with offers. It was really a wonderful turning point in my life at that time. The first one I took was GI JOE. Issue #110. Then I was offered a regular stint on MOON KNIGHT. I was originally slated to draw 'Animal Man' for DC but that fell through.

Q: What comic book artists would you say have influenced your style the most?

A: Hmmm.. John Buscema, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Hal Foster, Neal Adams and Moebius. There's a guy who does the book 'Gypsy' named Smolderen who I've been influenced by. Some of my peers I've really enjoyed are the Kubert Brothers, Lee Weeks, John Romita Jr, Jerry Ordway, Rudolfo Damaggio, Mike Manley, Zeck etc... There's so many great guys out there that there's too many to list and they get better and better. Ones that don't influence my style much but I think are amazing are guys like Mike Mignola, and I love this guy from Europe named Guarnido, whose doing the book 'Blacksaad'. I met him in Spain a couple years ago. Great guy, fantastic artist.

Q: What comic books are on your monthly must-read list?

A: Well I was reading "Blacksaad", just finished the latest "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (a real cool war of the worlds type story). "Batman", with Jeph (Loeb) and Jim (Lee). Im really enjoying "Superman" with Azzarello and Jim. Jim's stuff is so much fun to look at - and hes doing the best work of his career I think. I'm reading "The Flash" with Geoff Johns and my studiomate Howard Porter, who's doing amazing work. He's an unbelievable talent. I don't read much Marvel anymore, I don't get to the comic shop often enough. It's mostly what I get in the boxes from DC or European books I can get my hands on.

JLA: Our World's At War Q: In your career what book(s) have you drawn that you're most proud of? Why?

A: Lets see... My very first - GI JOE. It was just an amazing feeling having your hard work printed - a real rush. Others for different reasons. I liked the "Our Worlds at War" one-shot I did with Jeph. That was fun. Some of my issues of "Hulk". Artistically I think I had the most fun with that character. He's a big green monster and I liked playing him against the real world so I deliberately drew the normal characters from a point of view of realism. Like Alex Toth. Then when the Hulk showed up it was this total departure visually from that. Big, Green, warped out and psycho. And "Silver Surfer". I really tried to create a different approach for the feel of that book. A lean physique and cold alien art. Even in his environment. I tried to achieve this with a contour line approach on everything rather than feathered, textured heavily rendered linework. My "Captain America" run with Mark Waid I'm particularly proud of, as I really felt at that time I broke away from the mold of the styles that were coming out at that time. Plus I was nominated that year for an Eisner for best Penciller on Cap, an achievemant I'm particulary proud of. Steve Rude won but it didnt matter to me. I felt so honoured.

Q: This being the SUPERMAN HOMEPAGE I'd be remiss if I didn't ask your thoughts on the Man of Steel. Are you a Superman fan? If so what incarnation (Movies, TV, radio or Comic) has resonated the strongest with you? (If comic please specify an artist, writer or run that stuck with you.)

A: Hey! He's my favorite Character! Truly! He's real without having to be. Everything he represents makes him real and something to aspire to. Plus just the fact that he can do the things he can do appeals to the little lad inside all of us men when we dreamed of being able to lift buildings and fly. I probably remember anything Neal Adams drew - and I almost forgot to mention one of my favorites - Jerry Ordway! He's so great. I also loved what John Byrne did with him. It was always a visceral experience to read with real interesting villains and characters. (Banshee, Sludge, The Demon etc...)

Q: How did the position of "JLA" artist come about for you? Who contacted you?

A: Well I was slated to do a Superman gig with DC. During that time they asked me to do a six issue shot on JLA. Then they asked me if I'd do it regularly. It was all part of editor Mike Carlin's grand plan to rule the universe. I was supposed to draw the Supes book with Kurt, then Kurt got real excited about the prospect of JLA so we went with it. I knew I'd get to draw alot of cool stuff.

JLA #103 Q: Is there a different technique you use to work on a team book like JLA as opposed to a solo book like Captain America?

A: Um Yeah - with Cap I could envision the look, and the feel of the book and character. When asked I had an instant idea in my head, which was to make Cap visually identifiable and Mark and I wanted to make him a 'True Lies' sort of character, on a sort of super-spy adventure. Visually, on JLA - its not as simple as all of that. I think that's where Perez works so well on characters like that. His stuff is so energetic and that's what matters. In other words I think it's a little more difficult to experiment on, like I did with Hulk, Cap or Surfer, say. With them I worked within the context of what I thought THEIR personalities were. With JLA you have five or six different ones so I have to make them work within the context of MY artistic personality. It's the opposite approach. I may try something different though and make them all feel unique visually within the context of the book.

Q: You're currently working with Chuck Austen on a JLA arc in which each issue spotlights the solo adventure of a different member. Has this made it easier for you to get to know each of the characters?

A: Yeah I think so. It's been a good warm up - and good preparation for Kurt's stories. With each issue I think my style gets more tangible and cohesive.

Q: Artistically what's the look and feel of your JLA? (Are you gearing them to be more "cosmic" or "realistic")

A: I think the stories dictate that. With Chuck's stories, they were based more on real introspection and emotional dilemma. So with the pencil and ink there was a more emotional, rough, moody approach to inking on top of realistic, less cosmic figures and environments. Not to mention the fact that I was rediscovering my inking chops. On Kurt's stories it's the opposite, they are definitely larger and more epic in scale. You deal more with the outward experience as opposed to Chuck's inner. Introverted vs. Extroverted. Chuck's inner stories required more 'emotional detail' and less 'environmental detail' - meaning the impact of the textures and the inks create a mood, where as Kurt (so far in my experience) is more extroverted and his stories require lots of visual details which cosmic stories tend to need.

JLA #104 Q: So far which characters have been the most interesting or fun to draw?

A: Probably the Flash and Martian Manhunter so far. And I'm having tons of fun with the CSA. I'm looking forward to getting to draw more of everyone as time and issues go on.

Q: Which characters, if any, are you having a hard time working with?

A: Hmmm... Wonder woman maybe - It's harder to define a real 'look' with her. How long should her hair be? How large and muscular should she be? How pretty? Model or Bodybuilder? We know she's tall - but there's alot more room for interpretation with her than with the other characters. There are certain looks with them that come easier, but the more I work on her the closer I'll come to defining her my way.

Q: What's it like working with Kurt B?

A: Great! It's clear to me that he's a man who truly understands the histories and the characters, and that seems to spark his imagination. I like that. Mark Waid was the same way and it made it really enjoyable because then it sparks mine. So when I read one of Kurt's plots there are always things in there I can extrapolate from and add to. I like his enthusiasm and he seems to genuinely appreciate the work I've done in my career and what I'm doing now.

Q: Can you give us a few teasers regarding what we'll see in your and Kurt's run on JLA?

A: Hmm... Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars meets The JLA meets the CSA in a knock down drag out.

Q: Kurt's known for handling big teams very well. Are you and he looking to expand the JLA roster? If so, whose at the top of your recruitment list?

A: That I can't say. Sorry. I'll be killed.

Q: Any favorite villains or hero guest-stars you'd like to show up in the pages of JLA so you can draw them?

A: I love Darkseid albeit he's been overused. There are some that we're redefining that you hated once, but with the new spin on them you'll think "Why weren't these used this way before?"

Q: Is there a set amount of issues you'll be pencilling? Or is your tenure open ended?

A: Open ended.

Q: Are there any other projects you're currently working on that you'd like to plug?

A: "Rex Ringo and the Robot Wranglers" - Summer 2006.

Q: Thanks for the interview, Ron!

A: It was my pleasure.

This interview is Copyright © 2004 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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