Written by Michael A. Gonzales
Photography by Tyler Mallory
When DC and Marvel Comics need an artist to bring many of their most popular characters to life on paper, they call Shawn Martinbrough. His cinematic style is arguably more in line with that of the best film directors than with traditional illustrators. “Movies have always been a passion,” says the 39-year-old Washington, D.C.– based artist. “I like the work of Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher, Spike Lee, and Tony Scott.
In addition to the drawings Martinbrough produced for Luke Cage Noir, Batman, and The Losers, which was made into a film released earlier this year, the seasoned artist wrote and illustrated the instructional book How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling (2007), a must-read for anyone interested in mixing a moody sensibility with the graphic art form.
With Entertainment Weekly describing Martinbrough’s style as “straightforward grit and shadow-drenched melodrama,” he is currently developing animation projects for film and television, as well as young-adult novels for his own company, Verge Entertainment. In addition, he is now working on a new comic book project with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, to be released in 2011.
WHEN DID YOU START DRAWING?
I grew up in the Bronx, in Co-op City, and I remember having a tin Star Wars lunch box. I redrew the picture that was on the box, and my mom saw it. She thought it was very good, so she put me in art classes.
AS A KID, DID YOU DREAM OF BEING A SUPERHERO?
I always thought it would be cool to know how to fy, but the character I always wanted to be was James Bond. Besides the cars and the girls, Bond was known wherever he went; I wanted to have the same hookup that Bond had.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR OWN COMPANY,VERGE? I drew Batman for DC Comics for two years, and that was cool, but it wasn’t something that I owned. I started Verge to create properties that belonged to me. Currently I’m working on a series of young-adult novels, as well as a project with Dr. Dre’s production company.
DO ANY SHOWS ON THE SMALL SCREEN INSPIRE YOU? I like Mad Men and The Wire. For me, The Wire was one of the smartest shows on television; the characters and storytelling were amazing. I also watch Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad, which is damn good.
IF YOU COULD TURN ANY NOVEL INTO A COMIC BOOK, WHICH WOULD IT BE? It would be Isaac Asimov’s science fiction Foundation novels or George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm.
WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO WHILE DRAWING?
Most of the time I listen to the Howard Stern show, but I also play the film soundtracks of Hans Zimmer. My current favorites of his are The Dark Knight and Sherlock Holmes. John Williams (StarWars, Memoirs of a Geisha) is another favorite composer.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO COMICS?
Research the field and learn the business; if you want to get into comics, you better know how to draw and be able to meet deadlines.