I recently had a chance to ask the truly talented artist Scott Koblish about his thoughts about comics. Before I got into that though I asked if he had any interest in sports. His answer was great, and freshingly different, but it was not entirely what I expected, "No. I haven’t followed any sports, of any sort, in decades. When I was about 7 years old I liked the New York Yankees, but only because they were close geographically and I enjoyed following and participating in the math in the newspaper in order to keep the rankings of their position in the leagues straight. It is a similar exercise to keeping the price of stocks on the NYSE straight, back when the price of a stock was measured in 1/8ths of a dollar. I spent a lot of time in the back section of the newspapers, after reading the comics."
It is also worth noting during this interview I decided not to correct the spelling of "color" to the UK spelling of "colour" simply because it felt far to rude for a man of Scott's skill in regards to the subject.
Paul: What was the first comic you recall buying or enjoying? I am essentially asking how old may you have been, or where may it have been purchased from? Everyone remembers their first comic after all?
Scott: I don’t remember specifically, it was likely a Spider-Man comic or a Marvel Two-In-One. I learned of all the Marvel and DC characters from animated television programs before I ever saw a comic book. I was drawing from a very early age, probably 2 or 3, and I just transitioned from drawing firefighters and trucks to drawing super-hero characters off of the television. There was a wonderful Spider-Man comic strip in the newspaper that I began to follow, and then at some point my cousins had some comic books. I think my mother got my first few comics for me. They'd have been mostly a pack of Spider-Man, The Eternals, Captain America, a lot of Kirby 70’s Marvel comics. Interestingly, once I found comics, I was off like a shot, reading them obsessively.
Paul: Were there any specific comics or artists that inspired you to begin to illustrate for a living? Or for that matter do you describe yourself as a comic artist or as an illustrator?
Scott: I consider myself a comic artist, since it’s what I do specifically, illustrator is a little too broad. I studied with Joe Kubert from when I was 9, then Will Eisner in College and then I worked under John Romita Sr. at Marvel, so those are my guiding lights. The three of them provided me a solid foundation for understanding how to stay engaged in my own artwork for a long career.
Paul: What may have been your very first published work? And if possible, could you say who was your first editor?
Scott: My first published work was corrections work I did that and saw print from Marvel while I was on staff, so no one would know what it was. But, since I was on staff, I was able to engage with every editor there (to some extent), and I started working for about a dozen editors on a regular basis before I went freelance. The first published work with my name on it was an issue of Sleepwalker, or Marvel Comics Presents. Within a year I had worked for about 16 separate editors on multiple projects, so it’s not like I had one that I favored, which was lucky, because within three years Marvel had shed half of their staff and the majority of my editors in multiple rounds of horrific layoffs. As a freelancer, it’s not advisable to link yourself solely to another person’s career, no matter how much you enjoy their company and their ideas.
Note: above right is cover to issue 2 of The Giant Kokjü
Paul: Your art is stunning. Is there anyone one that es
pecially inspires you for your art? Are there any current celebrities etc that offer you any inspiration?
Scott: Thank you for enjoying my work, I appreciate it. I try to absorb artwork from all corners of the art world, and I am always trying to grow and expand my own skills in response to various trends or artwork that I’m interested in. The majority of my work is from my imagination, I don’t use reference terribly often.
Paul: You are genuinely famous for some incredible covers. I am curious how long does one cover actually take you to create from start to finish?
Scott: It varies. Some covers take a day, some take a few weeks. The Deadpool Wedding cover took around 11 days. The two wraparound connecting covers for Fantastic Four 700/701 took around a month to complete because the artwork was very large and complicated. The reference alone (reading through all 700 issues of the Fantastic Four) took me the better part of three days.
NOTE: This is Scott's incredible cover for Fantastic Four 700. To appreciate it in its full meticulous detail it is well worth picking up a printed copy of the comic.
Paul: How on Earth did you produce that Fantastic Four cover? How is it posible and where do you actually start to create an image like that?
Scott: I started by reading the entire run of Fantastic Four, and then taking screenshots of characters I thought would be important to include, that took about three days, but it was pleasant time spent. The Fantastic Four is a solid book over the last 60 years with only a few dull patches. Then I drew a few roughs until I found a pattern I could begin with, in this case starting with Galactus at the center point. Then I wanted to spotlight the Fantastic Four themselves - working from how they looked when they first burst on the scene and how they look today. I wanted Doom on the top front side of the first wraparound cover and Black Bolt on the top front side of the second, and I just filled in the gaps with 700 other characters. It took around a month to complete, but it was enjoyable throughout. I love the Fantastic Four, I consider them to be the Alpha of the Marvel Universe and so much has sprung from their beginnings - Stan and Jack laid down a wonderful foundation.
Paul: Many writers and artists enjoy comic conventions. Is that a part of your career you enjoy?
Scott: I came to comic conventions very late in my career. Up until a decade ago, I didn’t consider it part of my job. I conceived of my job as a problem solver for publishers, not as an individual whose responsibilities would be to myself and my career, but I was mistaken. So I’ve started to attend conventions and spread any appreciation of my work through direct contact with the fans. It took me a while to get used to the experience and the travel, but I really enjoy conventions now. It’s fun to meet folks who have engaged with the stories I’ve helped tell. When you create a story, you let it loose into the world where it enjoys a life of it’s own - and that enjoyment and engagement with that story is what returns to you when you go to a convention. Everyone is so happy to meet you! How could I dislike that experience?
Note: Above Scott at WonderCon (Anaheim, California) April 2023.
Paul: How do you feel about digital comics. If you read comics still, do you use a tablet/laptop etc or prefer the paper versions?
Scott: It’s another expression of the medium, only the human interface with the technology is a different experience - for example, light is being shone at your eyes instead of being reflected off of a paper surface, the colors available for printing are more limited than the screen, and even the core basis for the creation of color are different (Print has four colors that mix in patterns to establish the trick of making your eye believe they are seeing a separate stable color, and screens establish that trick with just three colors). But I don’t think we’re done with altering the interface either, I’ve noticed it shifting in both subtle and large ways and I expect it will continue to evolve. It’s nice to be here for the changes, I’ve done some fun work with digital comics (X-Men ’92) and animation (The 7th Portal) and I expect I’ll continue to do so in the future.
Paul: What does the future hold for you? Are there any projects you are working upon you would like to promote?
Paul: There's one final daft question I like to ask anyone that has worked on superhero comics. If you chould have one superpower, or the abilities of any particular character, what or whose abilities might they be?
Scott: Well, all gifts like that come with a curse, and if I learned anything from my old Spider-Man comics is that any elevated abilities coincide with elevated responsibilities. I don’t really crave extra abilities at the moment, I’m pretty happy with how my life is going. If I were to wish anything upon others, it would just be to enable them to find happiness and peace.