• Equestria Daily Interview Series: Interview with IDW MLP Artist Andy Price

    You know, Andy Price really has one of the coolest OC Ponies I have ever seen. Just look at him! He has a Batpencil for a cutie mark!

    Almost as if he's saying something about his time working for DC comics…

    Anyways, Andy Price is among one of the most famous artists in IDW's Stable of Artists. His art is always highly sought after. His line art for the comic has been imitated by Brony Artists the world over.

    I think the only thing that's more famous than him in the MLP:FiM Comic world is that Princess Luna is his favorite pony.

    I was fortunate that Andy agreed to sit down for an in-depth interview for Equestria Daily. What he has to say truly leaves me touched.

    I think it will for you as well. You can find the whole thing after the break.

    Which pony do you find the most challenging to draw?

    I don't know that I find any of them challenging, really... not after close to 3 years straight of drawing them all. Originally it was Celestia... completely different form to head and body, eyes, etc. She was unique. But I've drawn her enough now that it's no longer quite so difficult. And Twilight's cutie mark... it's a pain to draw. Her wings were a godsend—not to give Mitch Larson a god complex—just saying... it hid her cutie mark.

    So how did you get interested in creating art?

    To be honest I couldn't point to a definite time... I've drawn as long as I can remember, it was in my blood. I don't think I had any other choice.

    And did that get you interested in creating comics?

    Comics and comic related entities (the 60's Batman TV series, and 60's Spider-Man cartoons) fed my art desires... I learned to read on comic books. I remember asking what the word "incarcerate" meant from an issue of Batman. I've loved comics my whole life, from newspaper strips to comic books. I likely realized who Aparo and Buscema were before I realized who the presidents were.

    What ultimately led you to study at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art?

    It was actually a last minute decision—at the time, it truly was the only school of it's kind, at least that I could find.

    Most art schools or schools with big art programs frowned extremely upon comics, animation, and the illustration field on the whole. They were "lower" or "lesser" art, done for a deadline and a specific audience, not art for art. I hated that... the Kubert School was created specifically to put artists into the illustration field, and trained them not only in skills of the craft, but knowledge of the field the students wanted to enter—comics, books, and animation.

    Schools of similar nature have come around in more recent years, and the view of illustration has changed greatly—thank GOD! For those that do art... love what you do, do what you love. Learn from teachers/editors, but don't let them control you. Art is art, whether it's a bowl of fruit, a landscape, or a superhero.

    I think people like Joe Kubert helped change that... to bring more respect and appreciation not just to comics but to the whole field of illustration. Thom Zahler, another of our IDW Pony crew, attended the Kubert School as well.

    Which artists works or what art books would you recommend to someone to look at who is either looking to get into the arts or is looking to expand their knowledge and enhance their skills?

    Short answer: all of them. It's really dependent on what an individual wants in their art, but an illustrator absorbs from everywhere. DC Comics has a series of books on writing, drawing, inking, lettering, etc.

    An old but still valuable book is Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. It covers introductions to composition, perspective, motion in linework, and more.  Get a good anatomy book. Look at illustrators you admire, and then look at the ones they admired.

    You have a very, old school comic style for your art. Highly detailed inks, extremely detailed backgrounds, and filled sight gags galore. Your pages are basically completed works of art, that are either on par or exceed the standards set by artist Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko. Who were some of the greatest comic influences on your artistic style?

    I was a DC guy, so the DC stable of artists were my big influences. The majority of my inspiration comes from Don Newton, who was an artist in the late 60's to early 80's, and my all time favorite Batman artist. Other major influences are Bernie (Swamp Thing) Wrightson, Joe (Sgt. Rock) Kubert, Jim (Batman-Brave & the Bold) Aparo, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (the true artist of DC. The DC style guide was entirely his art), Nestor (Swamp Thing) Redondo, Steve Rude... all of which are comic artists.

    Other inspirations are Charles (peanuts) Schulz, Doug (Playboy) Sneyd, Marc (Disney) Davis, Chuck (Looney Tunes) Jones, Larry (Dungeons and Dragons) Elmore. There's so many... I think comic artists absorb bits of everything they see, and it's filed away for later use. I love doing both "straight" super hero work, and the goofy, silly cartoony stuff as well. I think a love for both have shown up in MLP:FIM.

    What can you  tell us about your creative process? Are there any special techniques that you do to make your art, or do you just take a sharpened pencil, put it to paper, and just start drawing?

    I use one pencil only- it's a mechanical pencil that was made for me as a gift for being best man at a wedding. Everything I've drawn for the past 14 years has come from that pencil. It's an HB lead, I like a soft lead. I primarily use a vellum surface Bristol board for the comics, although I still shop for paper to see what's better. I print out the script, and go through and draw thumbnails for the pages on the script itself, and then draw the pages from there.

    I always have either the TV going, or music. The TV is mainly background... I can't watch something new and draw at the same time. I typically shotgun through series on Netflix. For whatever reason The Dick Van Dyke show has been very conducive to drawing ponies, so I've gone through it I think 3 times. Music is typically Beatles, Stones, Elvis... 60's-80's. Night is when I do my best work, particularly late. And inking is always better at night... hands are steadier.

    The earliest piece of professional comic work of yours that I can find is with Innovation Comic’s Quantum Leap series. What can you tell us about that?

    I had a real love/hate relationship with it. It was not standard comic art. The editors wanted rendered pencil art rather than inked art, and it reproduced horribly, particularly after being colored. We had to answer to the celebrities for each panel of their likeness, which could take a while to hear back, and then do any changes. The stories were, quite frankly, too dull for the medium and didn't take advantage of it. However, it was comic work based on a property I enjoyed and I liked that aspect of it. I can't look at it now... my art has changed so dramatically.

    After Quantum Leap you kind of disappeared from the professional comic making scene. Did something happen after Quantum Leap that kept you from working in the industry, or am I chasing an untamed ornithoid without cause?

    I did other work with Innovation, some of which went unpublished before the company went under. Various life events had me away from the mainstream comics industry for a long time. I did a lot of advertising work, licensing work, toy designs, etc. I regret having left comics for so long, but cie la vie. I did other projects with self-publishers, and Image, but nothing that I really cared for.

    Your next appearance was in 2005 for issue 6 of Slave Labor Graphics’s The Haunted Mansion. There's very little information out about that comic, so what can you tell us about it?

    My wife and I are huge Mansion fans (as eagle-eyed observers can tell from issues of MLP:FIM). The short version is: I wanted to have a story in that book, and wasn't going to accept no for an answer. My wife and I put the story together, and presented unfinished art to the editor... he objected to the ideas, saying it went against a story he had written. We convinced him a Theme park ride has little to do with continuity and bullied the story in.

    It was a labor of love, and a wedding present to ourselves. The artwork was done as finished inks with an ink wash over it, as the book was black and white. We presented it with narration, in the style of old 60's/70's horror comics. One issue after ours, the book was canceled by Disney over problems with the contract. That is a book I would love to see return, and done better... the format was great, but they aimed at adult audiences, something no Disney park property should do. Have a million Mansion stories I'd love to do.

    How did you meet Katie Cook?

    I came to know Katie from doing licensing work on the same properties. We were both doing work for DC Comics licensing department when I saw her art. I got her contact, and emailed her to do some work together, and we've been friends ever since. Every once in a blue moon, some of the trading cards we did together show up on ebay.

    How did you get involved with IDW and My Little Pony?

    I think a gypsy stole me in the night and placed me on the steps of our editor.

    Katie had just landed the job doing scripts for the book, and saw some sketches I had done for a commission at a convention we were at. I had only started watching the show perhaps a month or two beforehand. She came to my table and said "hey, I think I have a job for you..." It's simple, but that's it. Having known each other we loved the idea of doing a project together so that spurred it on. I did some samples for IDW and Hasbro, both of which were very happy with the direction I wanted to take.

    What was your reaction like when the first issue of this series ended up selling over 100,000 copies in preorders?

    I was stunned, but when I really started to freak out was when I discovered that our preorders had been the highest preorders in 9 years, breaking records held by DC and Marvel! We were outselling major companies with a book that wasn't even on the stands yet! That's an incredibly intimidating thing, racks the nerves. Now we had to hope people actually LIKED it... which the follow up numbers showed that they did. Great intimidation followed by great elation and relief. It still is intimidating, really, to see the response the book gets over 2 years later. Very humbling.

    What has been your favorite issue to work on and what has been your favorite moment to illustrate?

    It changes, depending on issues and moments... Originally it was issue 3, then it was the Rarity micro, the Luna Micro, Reflections part 3, etc. Moments come along that are a  lot of fun. When I draw a face I actually laugh out loud at, I know it's a winner. I don't hang on to many favorites, as there's too much new stuff to do... but I did keep the Chrysalis vs. Twilight fight scene from issue 4 for myself... and while its got a pricetag on it, I think I'm going to keep the Celestia vs. Celestia cover from Reflections 4 for myself as well. I almost kept the garden scene with Celestia and Sombra, but I just reluctantly parted with it. These are my favorites. Although, we just introduced a new race and their city for issue 27/28 that I really like...so it keeps changing.

    What are some of the pieces of fan art that fans of the comic have done that has completely blown you away? I remember a fantastic statue was created of one of your covers. 

    All of them, in one way or another... it's incredible to see fans react so much that they do art/sculpts/etc based on a comic I worked on. I was given a custom sculpt of my own OC Leadwing so that was great!

    The sculpture based on the issue #5 cover of Night/Day is the one you're referring to, and it was tremendous. The artist did it as a commission, and asked for my input in various stages... I really had nothing to say other than it looked great at each point. Awesome work. There's been sculpts of Chryssy, Flax Seed, Luna, and more all based on my art, and they are all incredible.

    Speaking of meeting fans, what were some of the really stand out moments you can remember from all the various conventions you have gone to?

    There have been good and bad, luckily the good far outweigh the bad. Easily the best are meeting little kids that love the comic... and parents telling us that kids are learning to read from it.

    Is there anything else you want to talk about?

    So many of the fans of the book had never picked up a comic book before MLP hit the stands. So many have come to us to say thank you for introducing them to a new world... they've entered comic shops for the first time and discovered other titles. We've had comic shop owners come to us to say thank you for bringing in new customers, especially young readers. Parents have said that they can bring the kids in to the comic store with them, and they have their own comics to shop for... some parents are even telling us their kids are learning to read on our book! That's a phenomenal feeling.

    There are some in the comic industry that truly look down their nose at both All-ages books, and licensed books. First, I feel most of them have never opened one. Second, I wish they could meet the people I've met at conventions. Why look down at any person buying an all-age/licensed book, if it brings them into this hobby? The MLP fans are bringing their fandom (and money) into these shops, boosting comics as a whole. I would love to offer a big thank you to every single one of them for it.

    Andy Price can be found on:

    deviantart: http://andypriceart.deviantart.com/
    twitter: https://twitter.com/andypriceart
    facebook: https://twitter.com/andypriceart
    the web: http://andypriceart.bigcartel.com/

    Andy Price will also be making his next appearance at Ponycon 2015 in New York City on Valentines Day weekend!