Interview with the creative team behind The Lynx
Participants: Marshall Dillon (Editor/Letterer/Graphic Designer), Vittorio Garofoli (Artist and Inker), Michael Lent (Creator/Writer), and Carmelo Monaco (Colorist).
INTRO by Michael Lent
It was a lot of fun putting together Blog #1 of THE LYNX, so members of the team behind our book thought you might like to know more about us and our work.
The following is based on questions I asked or general observations made by the artists themselves. For this blog, we reversed the order from the previous blog and will begin with Marshall Dillon.
Lettering, Graphic Design and Editorial Contributions
How did you get your start in comics?
In 1993, fresh out of high school, I partnered up with 3 friends and started a small self-publishing company. We spent a lot of money and made very little. I did that for another nine years or so until I became Managing Editor and eventually Associate Publisher at Devil’s Due working on titles like GI JOE, D&D, and various other retro properties.
What were some specific comic books or series that have inspired you?
X-Men. 1983-1995 or so…all the wonderful Claremont stuff. In particular, I liked Marc Silvestri’s run. All that stuff was lettered by Tom Orzechowski. He’s a lettering god. He was the voice of Claremont. What X-Men was… what it DID was it created a sense of family. Misfit characters, a whacky world, insane situations, but they all loved each other. And as a fan, I loved them and felt loved by them. It was magical. I never got that feeling from Batman or the Avengers or any other comics.
Do you have a genre that you consider to be a specialty?
As far as MAKING comics, no. I prefer non-superhero stories, but I’ll gladly do them. I love reading fantasy and sci-fi and I’m pretty good at giving the lettering for those genres an appropriate feel without looking kitschy.
How did you come to wear many hats including writer, editor, colorist, inker and, of course, letterer?
I guess they call it bootstrapping. I just found something that needed to be done and I tried my hand at it. Originally I wanted to be a penciller, but I didn’t have the dedication for it. I love to write, but without an audience, I don’t typically make time for it. As an inker, I’m still a novice. I do it for fun mostly. It gives me a new reason to talk to people and have the kinds of conversations I liked having as an editor, but from the other side of the table.
What are some signature elements to your lettering?
Hopefully, it’s meshing with the art / story / genre. Making choices that are appropriate. I think I’m a pretty good storyteller (most people don’t realize how lettering works to help tell the story). I also usually have a lot of added value services for self-publishers and even for people going through Image. I help put all the elements together so it all comes out well in the end.
What are some challenges letterers could face when working with both artists, writers and possibly publishers?
As I said in Blog #1, lettering IS storytelling. It’s usually the last stage of the storytelling process. Letterers take the vision of the writer and the vision of the artist and try to make a cohesive item. We merge… we WELD the two into one thing. That’s what we DO. Now, the challenges vary greatly by project. Some books are overwritten, some are overdrawn. Some artists just draw whatever the hell they want with no regard for the script and some writers write whatever the hell they want with no regard for the rest of the process or for the reader (those people should write novels and leave the rest of us alone). There are fundamentals of comic book storytelling that MANY writers blatantly ignore. It’s worth rereading Eisner’s and McCloud’s books frequently to refresh your understanding of the basics and invigorate your desire to experiment within realistic constraints.
What is some advice for people who would like to get into lettering?
Hmmm… I didn’t set out to be a letterer… so it’s a tricky thing. If I could have been a penciller I would have. If I could have been a writer I would have. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a letterer, but if you want to be a rockstar, pick up the guitar and sing. Don’t play drums. Now, if you want to break into comics at all this is an amazing time. every aspect of the industry is in a constant state of flux. everything is being disrupted. YouTube, crowdfunding, viral marketing, none of that was a thing 20 years ago. You can learn everything you need to know about how to make comics from the internet and from Amazon. Once you have some skills you partner up with other young bucks and slowly level up. There is no shortcut. it takes work. It takes YEARS of work. (I only recently gave up looking for shortcuts myself, so… ;))
What are some upcoming projects you are working on that we should know about?
It’s always tricky you know when to hype things. What I can say is that WAYWARD is coming to an end with issue 30. I love that team and that book. We all did some of our best work on that. I do a LOT of work at Aftershock. I particularly enjoyed working on BACKWAYS, and continue to enjoy working on PESTILENCE, LAST SPACE RACE, BEYONDERS, MOTH & WHISPER, VOLITION, and ANIMOSITY. If you compare the writing, art and lettering on all of those titles you’ll get a glimpse of what I spoke about above. making decisions that work with the script and art to create a new whole thing. It’s like welding with letters! 😉
Wayward #26. Series ends on #30. Cool for Dillon to get letterer props on the cover.
How did you become a comic colorist?
I started working as comic book colorist when I was a student at Palermo School of comics. I was 23 years old and already knew how to use Photoshop. I was in the first year of a three year program at school, and truth be told, I wasn’t great at color theory. So it came as something of a surprise when the school principal needed a colorist for a simple gig and gave me the opportunity. The project was a French comic book for kids that was linked to a cartoon called Totally Spies! The series focuses on three teenage girls in Beverly Hills, California who work as undercover super agents. To date, the series has run for six seasons and produced 156 episodes.
I seem to have a tendency to back my way into things. For example, I was pretty old, 14 or 15, when I started reading comics. I didn’t really have an interest in them before then. The medium grew on me and I think my first great inspiration was Uncanny X-men, written by Scott Lobdell, with lots of great artists including Madureira, Adam and Andy Kubert, Chris Bachalo, and so on and so forth. After that, I started reading all different genres of comics, French, indie, Italian, manga…
As a colorist there are many guys I watch consistently, all with different styles and techniques ranging from digital medium to traditional. You never know what your next gig will be, so you kind of have to know how many different styles as you can.
What are some specific genres you might like to work in?
Well, I really have almost never done the same thing twice, so I don’t think I have a specific genre where I am particularly good at. And part of me doesn’t want to be. I am not that kind of guy who wants to do only one thing because he is good at it. In some sense, when I understand I am good at one thing, I kind of lose interest and start studying something else. Maybe that’s my biggest strength and my biggest flaw. It is a strength when I teach, because comic books work if every aspect is well orchestrated, (script, drawing, inks, color, etc.), but as a professional, it is very hard to be really good at many different things, so you have more possibilities of success if you specialize yourself at just one craft.
Carmelo Monaco hard at work.
Who are some of your influences?
I admire artists such as Brian Hitch (Marvel’s Ultimate series), Alan Davis’ work on the Excalibur series, and French comic books such as Alpha by Yori Jigoumov and Largo Winch.
My influences range from artists such as Trevis Charest, Ivan Rais, Mike Perkins, as well and Italian artists such as Sergio Toppi, Massimo Carnevale and Corrado Mastanuomo who helped inspire my style on THE LYNX.
What are some aspects of your craft that you are still mastering?
In my opinion, one of my problem is recreating and showing action, namely people in motion such as during the battle that ensues in THE LYNX.
Capturing the full range of emotions and feelings is also a challenge that I face like many of my fellow artists.
What is some advice you would give to aspiring comic creators?
Practice, practice and practice. It’s simple but true: you can’t better without constantly engaging in the craft.
The business of comics is hard, so it’s important to trust in one’s own abilities in order to take advantage of opportunities that WILL occur IF you don’t give up easily.
Be willing to accept and take the advice of those who are more experienced.
Album cover for Hotel on Mars
Tell us a bit about your experience as a comic book writer.
I love being a comic book writer. If you’re on the fence and is thinking about taking the plunge, do it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t circle around it. Don’t survey the scene or assess the situation. Just do it. You will be astonished by the results. Sometimes when I’m working on a few projects at once and new art or lettering is arriving via email every day – it feels like Christmas.
There are so many milestones to keep you motivated and sometimes they come fast and furious. Starting and completing a book… Landing a publisher… When the book comes out… The day you see it on a shelf in your local shop or online… Boothing to represent your work at a con… Meeting fans and fellow creatives… Indescribable experiences. All this can be yours if you just do it.
Lack of confidence and the internal critic are the two dragons that keep people from pursuing their dreams. Both involve a sort of cynicism about the process and one’s chances in it. So instead of descending into the arena of combat we remain on the sidelines or up in the spectator stands where we judge the actual combatants, or rationalize to ourselves that it’s all about “who you know.” Cynicism is paralyzing which is why it’s such a dubious and caustic currency. “I could do better than so-and-so but…” Better to stop comparing ourselves to the competition and just get to it. I, Michael Lent, have no special skills except maybe tenacity.
What is it like to work as part of a creative team?
Working with a team is an amazing journey all by itself. Everyone comes possibly from all corners of the earth with very specific skill sets, galvanized for a common goal which is the creation of the book. Think Fellowship of the Ring. Some of these fellowships go on for years and when they break apart because the project has ended, sometimes you never work together again. Consequently, the finished work takes on a life of its own. Personally, over time I start to lose the sensation or muscle memory of having written it. What I’m left with is the fellowship and the historical chronology represented by the finished book.
Whats dome general advice you would share with a fellow creator?
Make your work be all it can be and you have to take chances. Talk to people. Get your work out there. Let readers kick the tires and judge your book for themselves.
I have done projects for Marvel, Disney and many of the major publishers and studios, but I believe in DIY because I’ve learned the hard way that if you wait for someone else to pick up your project, you may be sitting around for a long time. There are times when I run into would-be creators at a con and they show me some killer concept work or an ashcan, but then a year later, I run into them again and see the same samples. I try to encourage them to push forward but some lack confidence in either themselves or the overall concept. Don’t let that be you.
People break through every single day. Why not you? Maybe today is your day.
Proving that sometimes it takes a village and more than three years of development and production, this is MALEVOLENT, the first-ever American animated horror film. Nearly completed, Lent is an associate producer on the movie under the leadership of lead producers Cindi Rice, Paige Barnett, Jim Cirile, Tanya Klein, and producer/director Jason Axinn.
Come back next week for part three of this special blog series, where we take a look at how the pitch for THE LYNX came together.
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