Interview With David Nakayama - Marvel Adventures Hulk Artist
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to conduct my first interview here at CITC. I had a nice experience, so I thought I'd try another one. I also decided to mix things up: since the subject of the first interview was a DC all-ages book, I decided this time to show Marvel some love. And since my first interviewee was a writer, I thought it would be cool to hear from an artist. Fortunately, MARVEL ADVENTURES HULK artist David Nakayama agreed. His work on the title has been AMAZING, and I thank him for agreeing to do this.
COMICS IN THE CLASSROOM-JOHN NORRIS: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. If you don't mind, I'd like to begin by asking about your name. What sort of name is “Nakayama?” Does it have any special meaning?
DAVID NAKAYAMA: Hey, nice talking to you too! ‘Nakayama' means ‘middle mountain' in Japanese, actually.
CITC-JN: How did you break into comics?
DN: I won a contest in Wizard Magazine a while back, and the prize was an internship at Top Cow Productions where I was lucky enough to train with Marc Silvestri himself, who I'd been a fan of for years. He's an outstanding teacher and spent a lot of time coaching me and the other artists in the studio, getting us up to speed. And after I'd improved a bit, I started drawing a few comics for them.
CITC-JN: Besides MARVEL ADVENTURES HULK, what other comics have you worked on?
DN: Let's see… eleven issues of City of Heroes (which is based on the popular MMO) plus the Proximity Effect and Revved miniseries, and a few other odds and ends like Witchblade.
CITC-JN: How did you get the opportunity to draw the Hulk?
DN: I did the Hulk story in the '07 Free Comic Book Day issue, sort of as a tryout, and I guess it did the trick! The editors gave me a shot at the regular book, and so far I've done six of the first eight issues plus some covers.
CITC-JN: Readers got their first taste of the new Hulk in the MARVEL ADVENTURES IRON MAN & HULK Free Comic Book Day special. What do you think of Free Comic Book Day? Do you think it was successful in helping promote the series?
DN: Anything the comics industry can do to expand the audience is a good thing. The books themselves are better and appeal to a wider readership than they ever have before—all we need to do is get people to check us out.
CITC-JN: [Marvel Adventures Hulk writer] Paul Benjamin has been writing some fantastic stories. What's it like working with him?
DN: Paul's full of great ideas and very collaborative as well, so it's a real pleasure to work with him. I'll often call him to talk about panel layouts or alternate ways to stage a scene, and he's always very receptive to any ideas I might have.
CITC-JN: The Marvel Adventures books are not in continuity with the regular Marvel (616) Universe. Does that have any impact on the types of stories you and Benjamin are allowed to tell?
DN: Absolutely! It gives us a ton of freedom to go in new directions and tell stories that might not be possible in the regular Marvel U. I guarantee that you'll see things in our book that you've never seen before. Case in point: Dormammu possesses Rick Jones' pet Monkey in issue #5. And in issue #7, Hulk gets the Power Cosmic from the Silver Surfer himself!
CITC-JN: What about telling stories that are suitable for all ages? With the Hulk, there's obviously going to be some violence. Do you ever find yourself having to tone things down?
DN: Blood and gore's never been my style anyway, and Hulk's smashier than ever, so no, I don't think we've had to sacrifice anything in the interest of a ‘T' rating.
CITC-JN: If you would, please describe the process of drawing a typical page.
DN: Things start with a 3-inch tall ‘thumbnail' drawing, which I blow up to 11x17 on a projector. After the layout's been transferred, I start breaking down the basic forms on the page. When that's done, I use a kneaded eraser to lighten up the rough pencil lines, which allows me to draw my final lines on top, using the first draft as a guide.
CITC-JN: Do you have a daily schedule?
DN: Sure—draw all day, sleep, repeat! The work takes a LOT of time, but I enjoy it, so it never feels like drudgery.
CITC-JN: How long does it take you to complete a page?
DN: About a day, give or take. Some of the splashier shots can take more time, but you can make it up on other pages.
CITC-JN: When you're drawing a page, do you have to factor in word balloons and captions?
DN: Definitely. The letterer needs space to add in all those things, and if you don't account for them in advance, your figures get covered up instead.
CITC-JN: As of this interview, you've had a couple of HULK covers published. How do you decide what the cover image is going to be?
DN: Sometimes the editor has a specific idea in mind. Other times, you come up with a few concepts yourself and pitch them to the editor.
CITC-JN: Do you collaborate with the inker and color artist?
DN: I try to as much as possible without stepping on their toes. It's crucial to have all the members of the art team pulling in the same direction, and when we do, it results in a great page. When we work at cross purposes, the art simply falls apart.
CITC-JN: On the first page of MA HULK issue #1, you pay tribute to the great Jack Kirby, which prompts me to ask who your influences are, both professionally and personally.
DN: Artists who mix realistic and cartoony influences are probably my biggest inspirations. Adam Hughes, J. Scott Campbell, and Kevin Nowlan spring to mind. Personally, I'm inspired by my dad's incredible work ethic. He's always given 100%, so I probably measure myself against that.
CITC-JN: As the series progresses, Bruce Banner seems to be coming to terms with his situation. He's gone from being scared of the Hulk to realizing they may not be as different as he thought, and that even the Hulk can do some good.
DN: It's true. Sometimes Banner and Hulk can work together and get along, but at the end of the day, they're still fighting for control of the same body, and there's no easy compromise there.
CITC-JN: In issue #3, Rick has been insulting the Hulk so that he'll generate enough gamma radiation to defeat Radioactive Man. After Rick nervously tries to say that he was wrong, Hulk grins and says, “Hulk know,” almost as if he was just toying with Rick. Do you think that Hulk may be a bit smarter than he lets on sometimes?
DN: Makes you wonder, huh? Maybe under all that rage, the Hulk's still got some of Banner's genius mind.
CITC-JN: So what's next for David Nakayama?
DN: Plans seem to change on the fly, but right now, I'm excited to start on an issue of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four, which'll give me an opportunity to stretch some new artistic muscles, and after that, I think it'll be Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man . But you never know what's comin' around the corner. I'm definitely crossing my fingers. J
CITC-JN: Finally, has it been as much fun drawing MA HULK as it has been reading it?
DN: You bet. After 6 and a half issues, I feel really comfortable drawing the Green Goliath, and I really, really hope that I'll get the chance to draw him again soon.
By thy side,
John “Figaro” Norris
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