Shuster Award-winning artist Mike Del Mundo talks about his approach to the art on Marvel’s new Elektra series, waxes nostalgic over Whilce Portacio’s X-Factor run, and more in our exclusive Fan Expo Vancouver interview.
Artist Mike Del Mundo is on a roll. Last year, the 34 year-old George Brown College alum was accorded the Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Cover Artist for his work for Marvel Comics (we’ve mirrored images of the qualifying works, published in 2011 and 2012, in the gallery below).
Earlier this month, Del Mundo was announced as one of the nominees for this year’s Will Eisner Industry Award for Best Cover Artist and given the strength and stylistic diversity of his 2013 cover work, he’s probably the odds-on favorite to take home the plum.
The son of a musician father and a teacher mother who are visual artists in their own right, the Filipino-born Canadian artist was encouraged from a young age to pursue artistic endeavors—Del Mundo was actually quite the active b-boy all through his teen years, even taking part in b-boy battles across Canada and the UK. Like many comics artists of Filipino descent of his generation, Del Mundo also credits Image Comics co-founder Whilce Portacio as a fairly important figure in the development of his identity as an artist, citing an encounter with Portacio at a New York comics convention as being particularly inspirational.
While known mostly for his cover work, Del Mundo has also compiled over a dozen interior art credits for Marvel Comics and he recently started a gig as the regular artist on the publisher’s new Elektra series. Outside of comics, his work has appeared in ESPN: The Magazine and he created the album covers for underground hip-hop producer Marco Polo’s The eXXecution and The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo and Q-rock’s Smoke Signals. Del Mundo also provided the art for the limited edition Ghostface Killah skate deck released in 2012 and his collection of sketches of Toronto-area transit passengers, compiled over one year, have been collected in a hardcover edition entitled Daily Commute.
A regular guest at Toronto’s annual Fan Expo Canada, this year saw Del Mundo’s first Fan Expo Vancouver appearance. The Comixverse caught up with Mike Del Mundo on the last day of the weekend event, and below is a transcript of our quick conversation.
The Comixverse: First off, congratulations on your Shuster win last year and getting nominated for this year’s Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist.
Mike Del Mundo: Thanks.
CV: As far as your covers go, you’ve got a real diverse, eclectic style that’s almost reminiscent of what Kaare Andrews did during his lauded run as a cover artist on The Incredible Hulk some years ago. How do you decide on what approach to take in designing your covers?
MDM: It all depends on the story. The story lends itself to the style. It all depends on what I feel works for the story, you know what I mean? I don’t consciously choose a style. If I see something that works, that I like, I keep it. If you look at my covers, they always change, they’re always different. A lot of artists, they have a distinct style. With me, maybe because I have a short attention span, I get bored of doing the same thing, so maybe you’ll see a run of four covers that sort of look similar and then I’ll change it up.
CV: That’s sort of like what [Iron Fist: The Living Weapon artist] Kaare Andrews was saying in his sketch duel with Mark Bagley yesterday, about how he’s applying the martial arts philosophy of “the best style is no style” to his comics work…
MDM: Yeah, I don’t worry about [having a style], man. I was just telling [artist Marco D’Alfonso], “I don’t think I have a style,” and he’s like “You have a style, man, people can see it.” But to me, I don’t see myself as having a style. I used to worry about it, but now I’m just “whatever.”
CV: The thing too, about having a strict style is you can get creatively penned in and start repeating yourself…
MDM: When I was working on Elektra, the new Elektra, I wanted to do something different from the rendering I used to do, something I hadn’t seen a lot of other artists do with her, so I went with a simpler way of rendering.
Also, style comes from speed. You were there at my sketch duel with Dave Johnson, right? Sometimes your work comes out the way it does because of the deadline. So sometimes you try something simple, but it can communicate the book or whatever, and it can look very different from what you used to do.
Another thing, too, is, if you work on something for a very long time, when you start overthinking things, you’re not showing your honest work. But when I’m doing something real quick, it’s like I’m just watching my body do it…
CV: Almost like you’re working off of muscle memory…
MDM: Yeah! So in terms of having a deadline, yeah it helps sometimes…
CV: At your sketch duel with Dave Johnson, you shared a story about meeting Whilce Portacio when you were starting out as an artist and how it was this inspirational episode. When you listen to guys like Philip Tan talk about him, he seems like this overarching influence on a lot of comics artists of Filipino descent…
MDM: When I was ten, I was like “Wow, he’s a Filipino artist? Oh shit!” Actually… I didn’t even discover he was a Filipino artist until later. But his X-Factor…
CV: Oh man, Portacio’s X-Factor stuff was amazing..
MDM: Yeah, X-Factor was one of the first books I got from [Ontario convenience store chain] Hasty Mart, back when they still had spinners, right? I still have that book. Even to this day, I look at it and I go “wow,” even if it, you know, is very much of its era…
CV: X-Factor #64, that issue where Iceman goes to Japan and fights these cyborg Yakuza to save his girlfriend, that was my first Portacio comic…
MDM: That’s the one, man! It’s the one with Iceman sort of rising up, and then behind him is this guy…
CV: Yeah, it was Hiro, the cyborg Yakuza who had a thing for Iceman’s girlfriend Opal Tanaka…
MDM: It was the orange cover, right? I still feel like [Portacio] did the perfect Iceman. His Iceman was so grimy. You know what, I was watching Bloodsport the other day, right, and in fight scene with [Jean Claude] Van Damme and Bolo Yeung, I kind of noticed the similarities with [X-Factor #64] and… I just kept getting this feeling about the aesthetics being aligned or something.
CV: Recently, there’s been this movement in the industry, especially at Marvel, to make superhero books more welcoming to female readers, make them more “female-friendly” if you will. You can see this reflected, either intentionally or incidentally, in some of the new costume designs, like Jamie McKelvie’s redesign of Carol Danvers’ costume when she became the new Captain Marvel or Kris Anka’s work redesigning Psylocke’s outfit. Is there a similar sort of push to remake Elektra in the same vein, given that the Elektra costume design did originate in a time when sensibilities were different when, you know, an artist could dress up a female character in basically a bikini and call it a costume.
MDM: As much as there was a certain sensibility or whatever during that time, Elektra was still a powerful woman. Because of that, I still respect how she looked back then. We didn’t really change the look of Elektra [for the new series], I like the way she looks, but what we have changed is that we don’t have a lot of booty shots. Less shots of the booty, less focus on certain parts of the body, more focus on telling the story. And she’s got other things going for her and other qualities, right? What I’ve actually focused on for the first issue and the second issue are her expressions. We do a lot of close-ups of her face.
CV: Have you thought about doing a creator-owned book, maybe taking it to Marvel’s Icon imprint or even Image Comics?
MDM: Yeah. I’ve got all these ideas I need to figure out, cause right now they’re all scrambled in my head. But yeah, that’s my next goal. Maybe when my Marvel deal is up, but right now, I’m fully occupied with Elektra, which is my main focus. Once things come together, though, yeah, I’d love to do creator-owned work.
CV: So besides, Elektra, you have anything you want our readers to check out? Social media?
- Leaving Proof 14 | Filipino Art in American comics: From Komiks to Comics (or “Mr. DeZuniga Goes to New York”)
- Leaving Proof 15 | Filipino Art in American Comics: Nestor Redondo
- Leaving Proof 16 | Filipino Art in American Comics: Alfredo Alcala
- Leaving Proof 18 | Filipino Art in American Comics: Alex Niño
- Leaving Proof 21 | Filipino Art in American Comics: Romeo Tanghal
- Leaving Proof 41 | Filipino Art in American Comics: My Whilce Portacio Experience (Part 1)
- Leaving Proof 42 | Filipino Art in American Comics: My Whilce Portacio Experience (Part 2)
- Leaving Proof 43 | Filipino Art in American Comics: My Whilce Portacio Experience (Part 3)
- Leaving Proof 79 | In Search of the Filipino Artist in Contemporary American Comics
- Leaving Proof 108 | A Conversation with Whilce Portacio
- Tony DeZuniga, 08 November, 1932–11 May, 2012
- Leaving Proof 168 | The art of eskrima in comics and comic book-based films
- Leaving Proof 177 | Will Steve Gan Finally Receive His Due?
- Leaving Proof 183 | Shang-Chi, Rudy Nebres, and The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu
- Leaving Proof 207 | State of the Art: Thoughts on the work of Leinil Yu and other Filipino artists working in today’s American comics
- INTERVIEW | Philip Tan