SAL ABBINANTI ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Sal Abbinanti is the creative architect behind the comic book series Atomika, an alternative universe story of the first man-made deity.
Sal’s art is filled with rugged looking characters and imagery that reminds this interviewer of the wonderful BD Auteur Philippe Druillet.
Two trade paperbacks collecting the single issues of Atomika have been released. For more information on Atomika please visit the Mercury Comics website.
A gallery of Sal’s battle-rich art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Sal Abbinanti: Got in a lot of trouble as a kid and I discovered comics. They just spoke to me right away… Local drug store (Stoya’s Drugs on Broadway, and Bryn Mawr in Chicago) had a spin rack in the back.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
SA: Went to Columbia College and the Art Institute of Chicago for a while then transferred to USC to study animation in L.A.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
SA: Exaggerated pictures, stretched and dramatic in sequence to tell a story. The style is as important as the subject in the picture.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
SA: If you rely on the words instead of the visuals to tell a story, then, yes.
But when telling a story with pictures, the line and color are more than enough to evoke mood and feeling. There is a trend in comics right now to make the writer the main focus of the book – which, to me, is a joke. Writers work a page then go eat lunch, come back, knock out another, scratch their ass some more and call it a day. The heart and soul of the sequential medium is the art. We create the setting, the mood and the readers’ focal point from the width of our line, not the words. If you want the written word as your story delivery then read a book. The only constraints are what the artist brings to the table in his head. There is no boring subject matter, just boring artists and really bad editors; Marvel and DC are pitted with packs of old school cronyism that rivals Chicago politics. I would get rid of two thirds of them and bring in some fresh young minds that aren’t content with re-using the same three story arcs from Stan Lee and Alan Moore.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
SA: Individual style is a must. Using the medium to tell a story like no one else. No fear [that you have] to ape up to an editor or [produce a story according to] how you think the fan wants it.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
SA: Grab something that gets your juices flowing, first off. Then just try and do your best work without being afraid that it will not please the person you think is going to read it.
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?
SA: I like to work more at night; I work all the time in and out of kids and daily activities.
It’s important to work all the time. Artists draw all the time, or – may I add – should. Whether it’s fleshing out an idea from something you’ve seen or making sense of all the chaos in your head as you’re trying to fall asleep at night, artists need that outlet. The blessing and curse of it is we can’t turn it off or punch a clock.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
SA: It’s always a struggle to find work as an artist, that is, find work and be happy. Making ends meet as an artist means doing whatever you must to pay your bills and exist as an artist. It’s no different now than it was for artists in the Renaissance. I’m not ashamed to do other jobs to support my art.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
SA: Sitting down and doing a comic from soup to nuts. You learn more about yourself as an artist than anything. One is not as quick to criticize others once you walk in their shoes. Do it yourself. You won’t regret it.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
SA: Movies, music, other artists; everything should inspire you as an artist.
Informs? Making mistakes that you try and learn from. The works of Jack Kirby and Bill Sienkiewicz never cease to inspire and push me to do and try more.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
SA: All good. It’s the evolution of the medium. We should use it; push it to bring comics to the next generation. Fear is not good when it comes to new media. Remember the computer fifteen years ago? Comic artists were laughing at it. Now it’s vital in our world and work from production to promotion. We’re all whores, so use it all.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
SA: Marvel and DC should take on more indie titles.
The medium’s growth is restricted to the mainstream if the big publishers keep feeding the stores Coke and Pepsi. X-men and Batman look the same as they did thirty years ago. Come on – that’s all we got? What have you got to lose? Comics in the U.S. are like butter in the sun right now. The big publishers will never innovate, only respond to trends. That’s bad. First, start hiring editors that aren’t merely guys willing to work for 25k a year. Find people that really want to be editors, not just act like editors. Most of the ones in the business now are there so they can get a free airline ticket to Comicon. Hire some that have vision and balls – not the guys that wear a shirt with a little alligator on the tit.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
SA: Continue to self-publish my work. It’s hard but that’s what makes it worth it.