PAOLO RIVERA ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera is one of my favourite artists working for Marvel.
Paolo has worked on a host of titles, Spider-man and the Fantastic Four among them. His run on Daredevil is perhaps my personal favourite.
A gallery of Paolo’s affecting art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Paolo Rivera: I think most people love it when they’re kids. I just never grew up. I collected toys and subscribed to Wizard and watched cartoons… all the while trying to copy what I saw.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
PR: I went to the Rhode Island School of Design and got a BFA in Illustration. I also spent my junior year in Rome as part of the European Honors Program, which allowed me to concentrate on comics full time. I also had one class with David Mazzucchelli, who ended up being a huge influence on me.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
PR: There are too many to name. I probably owe the most to Kirby, though. We all do.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
PR: I’m not one for definitions. I do what I do and you can call it what you want. I know what a comic book is — sequential art is a broader term than that.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining? Please elaborate.
PR: Well, there are different types of infinity. The medium does have constraints, but there are limitless possibilities within those parameters. I can’t show animations, but I can get close enough to convey the idea. The reason I love comics is because those ideas are often more powerful. I can draw a fight scene that is totally believable, but would never hold up if filmed or animated. Comics are a distillation of action, so each panel should be the purest form of storytelling — the exact moment when things change. It’s like connect-the-dots in space and time. The connections may be abrupt, but at the end you have a complete story in pictures.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
PR: Omniscience would be helpful. Beyond that, impeccable draughtsmanship is a must. Composition above all. A mirror is handy.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
PR: Slowly. I’m my own editor. I start with the roughest of ideas and refine, refine, refine. Sometimes it’s easy, but most of the time it’s a plodding process.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
PR: It all depends on the day. I’ve only been doing covers since May, so my hourly count has dropped quite significantly. When I was doing interior work it was all day, every day, no breaks or weekends. At times, I would even put myself on a twenty-five-hour day and shift my six-hour sleep cycle by 1 hour each day, all in the name of deadlines. This year, I gave all that up. I spend about thirty hours a month just answering email. And maybe ten hours per month blogging.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
PR: I was one of the lucky ones who had work before I even graduated from school. I made a little over 20 grand my first couple years out of school. That was a lot of money to me back then, and I was pretty frugal, so I never had a problem making ends meet. The nice thing about working so much is that you never have time to spend any of that money. I had about 15 grand in debt from school, which was a lot less than most kids. I had almost a full ride in scholarships. Again, lucky.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
PR: It’s tough to say. My ten years at Marvel seem like one long high point — great collaborators and great projects for a decade. Daredevil has definitely gotten me the most recognition. I remember being pretty excited when the Mythos collection was published. And it’s been amazing to work with my dad as inker for the past year.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
PR: Everything— art, science, literature and ladies. No particular order.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
PR: Good. I’ve always been a horrible comic fan. I have far too many books and not a lot of space. Digital comics (and eBooks) have allowed me to buy more without taking up more of my apartment.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
PR: I’m a free-market kind of guy, so the more options out there the better. Big companies have big responsibilities so they are limited to supporting sure bets. I like what’s happening with crowd sourcing for independent creators but at the end of the day, all I have power over is my own career and artistic output.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
PR: Leonardo or Michelangelo. I’d flip a coin.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
PR: My next sequential project is going to be a sci-fi epic that I’m currently in the process of writing. It’s insane. I’ll be asking readers to take just 2 leaps of faith in technology, and the rest is much like our own world. It’s an exploration of nurture vs. nature vs. hunger vs. art. Five robots. One creator. Lots of deceit.