Interviews

Killer Cats and Sketch Cards: An Interview with Gareth Luby

Dublin based artist Gareth Luby started his comic career with Frankie – a killer cat with a penchant for violence and puns. While working on the first story, he was chosen to work on Marvel sketch cards. Just recently, he’s been involved in the launch of Limit Break Comics.

The bare-bones idea behind Meouch was Frankie; what can you tell readers about your inspiration for the character?

Well basically Frankie is based on my cat. When he was a little kitten, I always felt he was plotting my demise. He was a funny kitten. I would imagine what he was thinking as he tore my hands apart playing with me… I had an idea of a kitten who would be the world’s most deadly assassin. Using Frankie’s features, I sketched out the Original Frankie. (Which looks nothing like the Frankie you see today BTW.) I wanted to have a fun character that was not too serious and you could have fun with. That’s Frankie in a nutshell.

How did you approach drawing the first story?

Drawing the first story was intimidating to say the least. I really wanted to get across who Frankie was and also have fun with the story. I had a few things going against me. One, I had never drawn a comic before, and I knew my limitations working in the medium. And two, I was never that confident in my art at this point.

So I sat down with friends who worked on the book and bounced ideas around. I never planned out a single page, I just went for it. I know now that this was a really, really bad way to approach drawing a comic.

Anyway I pieced it all together and we (Gareth and writer, Paul Carroll) got the first Meouch Comic out for Dublin Comic con 2017, and I was happy to say it was very well received.

Frankie recently appeared in a Fantasy anthology. How did you approach the character design in a new settling?

I had bedded down the Frankie design by the time the Anthology opportunity came up. Paul Carroll, who writes all the Frankie stories, thought it would be a great opportunity for Frankie to reach a much wider audience.

Paul wrote a fantasy story that placed Frankie in a medieval setting: knights, kings, and castles etc. It was really fun to work on, I was much more confident in working on this story. I was happier with the character design and more confident in my ability to tell a story visually.

It was great to work Frankie into a Medieval setting. He got armour which was a nod to my favourite comic character, Thanos. He got a massive Buster Sword from Final Fantasy that a cat could not possibly wield (but Frankie does) and he gets to battle the Dark Knight – not Batman but Doggo Shady, Frankie’s nemesis!

So all in all, I was very happy with the story from Paul and my art. Myself and Paul collaborate on the colours for the story, and it looks amazing. But the really good news was that it was immediately accepted for the anthology, so we were really happy that people loved Frankie as much as we did, and felt him worthy to include in their anthology.

Before Meouch was released, you started work on the Marvel Sketch Cards. How did that come about?

The sketch cards came about on the back of my warm up post it note sketches.

I would always do a quick sketch on a post-it note before I did any major art sitting, or just sometimes for fun. I would work on a post-it as a small canvas so I’m not committing to a big piece of work, and it would warm me up for everything: pencils, inks and Copic Marker colours.

I started posting these up on my Instagram, and thought nothing more of it. The more I posted, the more popular they got, and one day I received an email saying that my work was really good and they liked that I got a lot of detail into a small space. The mail went on to say that they were looking for artists to work under the Marvel umbrella on a Sketch Card project. Obviously I thought it was some kind of scam, no way was someone affiliated with Marvel asking me to draw for them, but a few mails back and forth and I agreed to do the work. It was amazing to get that package delivered with all the sketch cards and the Marvel artwork guidelines. It may not a big deal for some but for me at that stage, I was on cloud nine. I had free reign to draw nearly all of the Marvel universe on these, and I went tooth and nail at it. I got all the cards approved and away they went. I never thought much about the completed cards after that but my Mum Googled me one day and found that one of the Deadpool sketch cards I did sold for over $200. I was shocked to think that someone would pay that amount of money for something that I drew. It was an amazing feeling and a serious confidence builder.

I have since worked on an exclusive set of X-men cards with these guys and have recently been given the go ahead by Marvel to share the work I did, so you can see them on my Facebook and Instagram.

What’s your process for working on the cards? How does this vary to your comic work?

I found the hardest part of working on the cards was the absolute limitless amount of characters I had to work with. I did receive a 5-page blacklist of characters that I couldn’t draw due to licensing issues i.e. NO FANTASTIC FOUR at all. But I got to draw most of my favourites and loads of characters I never ever thought of drawing before. I mostly did headshots on the cards due to their size, but I did push my ability on them going for half-body shots to full-body shots on the small trading cards. My most challenging card was in the X-men run when I managed to fit seven characters onto a single card. I was proud of that one and it got a special mention in my approval mail from the guys at Marvel, to quote them “Well done on breaking the mould man.”

So I made it a point to try and challenge myself on this project, not content with the safety of a headshot, but taking the time to see what I could pull out of the bag.

You’re involved with the running of the Geek Mart. What can you tell readers about it?

The Geek Mart started out as a small market run once a month and now quarterly in Dublin. It grew in popularity very quickly. I would like to think the team behind it, being Paul Carroll, Niall Fox and myself, have built a community through the Geek Mart. It gets a lot of interest and word of mouth. We like to give newcomers to the geek community a launch pad for their work, be it crafts, artwork, cosplay or anything they would like to showcase. We are a small event run by geeks for geeks. So if you are looking to break into exhibiting your work but don’t feel you’re ready for the massive Cons, we are always open to new vendors and can be found on Facebook.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Just go for it, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. It is really fun to create something original and to see people enjoy it.

Tips I would give is if you’re an artist, draw every day. I can’t stress that enough, because it’s the only way you are going to get better at it. You will never be perfect, even the seasoned professionals still push themselves every day, because there is never a perfect drawing. In my eyes, I can look at a Jim Lee Batman drawing and think, like 99% of the planet, that it is amazing, but I sure Jim will see the errors he made and will always try to improve upon them.

Practice your sequential storytelling. This is a trap I fell down and I only recently discovered I wasted a massive amount of time. If you want to draw superheroes and that’s it, then do that. If you want to draw comics, you will not learn anything from doing this, You need to be drawing storytelling pages, because this is what the people hiring artist to work on comics will look at. You can show them you can draw Captain America, but they need to be able to see that you can draw Cap fighting a horde of Skrulls on an alien planet while trying to get his hands on the Teseract. And that is a totally different skill set.

I have fallen into the whole of drawing Pin-ups and not drawing more comics, and this has hindered my progress as an artist.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

Following on from what I just said, what’s next for me is practice. I will be drawing Frankie’s first full Meouch comic – Paul Carroll has written a really action packed and funny three-issue arc for Frankie, so I look forward to cutting my teeth on that.

And when I’m not working on Frankie, I will be practicing my sequential Artwork.

I plan to take a year out from doing shows and Conventions and just solidly work on enhancing my skills as a comic artist. Like I said before, I love drawing comics and I want to be able to draw them much better than I can now. This is definitely not going to happen overnight, it won’t even happen over the twelve months I plan to dedicate to it, but I know for a fact that I will be better, and on a more focused road towards my goals.

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