Last week, folks were all-a-tweeting about a super-cool fan posters of ROM, Spaceknight created for the Bill Mantlo tribute, Spacenite 2, put on by the awesome folks at Floating World of Comics. Click the link and fall in love … I dare you.
The standout for me was the work of Tom Whalen – a master at combining comic and pop culture art with the WPA artistic style — a personal favorite. He is an incredibly talented artist. And, that got me thinking it was time to move this weekly feature forward and find out a little more about the artists we feature each week. Visit his Deviant Art page and his personal Web site, www.strongstuff.net And, learn more about him here …
Marvel Smartass: Hey Tom, what’s your background? How did you get into graphic design?
Tom Whalen: My earliest recollection of paying attention to art came (oddly enough) in my grandmother’s candy store. I killed countless Sunday afternoons sitting on a weathered old stepladder reading the Spider-Man, GI Joe, Transformers and Avengers comics she had stocked on the spinner rack.
Eventually, that love of comic art inspired me to start drawing. The issues of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and DC’S Who’s Who that she graciously gave to me were literally invaluable.
As high school began to draw to a close — and, after years of drawing every variety of things superheroic, monstrous and robotic — my mom saw my passion and suggested I take a look at art schools. Kutztown University suited all of my needs and turned out to be a fantastic place to learn not just drawing skills, but understand the power of typography and the fundamentals of solid layout. When I graduated, I found work as a graphic designer for almost five years before landing a full-time editorial illustration gig, where I’ve been for the past eight and a half years.
Marvel Smartass: WPA style seems to be making a bit of a comeback lately. What about it drew you to that artistic genre? Click here for more information on this style dating back to the 30s.
Tom Whalen: WPA-style posters are timeless in their elegance and execution. I think the fact that a 70 year-old style still looks fresh is a testament to that. I’ve always been a geek for complex concepts boiled down to as-simple-as-possible images.
Marvel Smartass: Who are your favorite heroes and villans to draw? Why?
Tom Whalen: As far as heroes go (and this probably sounds pretty cliche), I love to draw Batman. It’s the cape. And, the logo. And, the gloves. And, the mask. I never tire of trying new takes on him. My favorite villain to draw would have to be Skeletor. I’ve illustrated him twice in the past year and I just don’t tire of taking new stabs at him.
You didn’t ask, but if I had to pick a least favorite character to draw, it’d be Voltron. Hands down. I’ve also illustrated him twice recently (once for a private commission and once for a Nicktoons calendar), and if I never have to draw him or all of those wretched teeny tiny folded down lion legs again, I can assuredly die happy.
Marvel Smartass: Are you a comic book fan? If so, what was the first comic you remember reading? What books do you read now?
Tom Whalen: I love comics. The first book I can remember reading (in my grandmother’s store, nonetheless) is an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that featured the Hobgoblin. I always loved those old webslinger stories because the villains truly felt dangerous.
Right now, I’m reading (and loving) Walking Dead, Kick-Ass, Blackest Night, Punisher and Robocop.
Marvel Smartass: Who are your favorite comic artists?
Tom Whalen: In no particular order: Leinyl Yu, Darwyn Cooke, Art Adams, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Rick Leonardi, John Byrne, Tony Moore, Bryan Hitch, John Romita, Jr., Chris Warner, Alan Davis, Kelley Jones and Zach Howard.
Marvel Smartass: What advice do you have for people who love art, but are self-conscious about dipping their toes into graphic design?
Tom Whalen: I look at illustration, fine art, typography, photography and design as different musicians. Each can create something unique on their own, independent of each other. But together, they can create something altogether amazing and beautiful when they are in harmony with one another.
Marvel Smartass: Just one more question — Iron Man- Clunky original or sleek iPod modern design?
Tom Whalen: I’ve loved just about all of Iron Man’s armor designs through the years (my favorite: Silver Centurion), but if Ihad to choose between the two, I’m going clunky old school.