By J. Montes
Ron Garney gained much notoriety in the 1990s with his run on Captain America with Mark Waid. His energetic style coupled with Waid’s action-packed scripts not only boost the sales of a sinking title, but re-energized Captain America as one of Marvel’s flagship characters. From there, Garney drifted to other titles like The Incredible Hulk, Green Arrow, and JLA before landing on Amazing Spider-Man with J. Michael Straczynski.
The work Garney did on Amazing Spider-Man is nothing short of controversial and engaging. In it, Peter Parker reveals his identity to the world (and grapples with the ramifications), uses his new “Spider-Armor” designed by Tony Stark, witnesses the shooting of his Aunt May, and nearly kills The Kingpin. Sadly, most of these events would be rendered null by “Brand New Day”, but they still stand on their own merits and arguably push Spider-Man down the darkest path of his career.
Following his run on ASM, Garney did a short stint on Wolverine with Jason Aaron and is now working on Skaar: Son of Hulk with Greg Pak. His work here is a huge departure from what fans may be used to – not only because of the lack of an inker on his work, but also because of the involved fantasy setting.
Your run with Mark Waid is regarded as one of the best runs on Captain America. Do you have an itch to go back and work on that character?
Not really an itch. At the time I was doing it back in the 1990s the title had gone on such a rollercoaster ride [Editor’s Note: Captain America was taken away from Waid and Garney so that it could be rebooted as a “Heroes Reborn” title by Rob Liefeld] that I thought I’d never want to again. But after I got to draw him again in my Amazing Spider-Man run, I remembered how much fun it was. I think that’s what made it so enjoyable, just being able to draw the character without the political hoopla surrounding a suddenly “hot title”. So yeah, I’d like to draw him again at some point if the story is right.
Your art has evolved throughout the years, but I’ve always felt your work’s most constant, and greatest strength is the energy you put into your characters. You have a great sense when it comes to portraying dynamic, hard-hitting action. Was this skill something you always had or something you really had to work hard at?
Thanks! I don’t know if I have a method for doing it that’s conscious on my part, but it’s a process of feeling it, I suppose; getting the eye to move through the story at an exciting pace that makes sense. Visually, I go back over the pages and reread and draw them until I think they flow right. And (with) the figures I try to put them in their ultimate positions for action – meaning following through to the end of their form – the extensions of the legs or arms. The figure work is a large part of it.
A lot of artists use photo reference and models for their work these days. What method do you use? If you’re using photo referencing, let me tell you: it’s pretty hard to tell with your artwork.
Not generally, no. I will if I have to draw a place like Kansas City in the 1920s, for example. I’ll want the authenticity, but I don’t generally reference figure work unless I’m having real trouble with it. I might look at myself in a mirror once in a while with a light bulb to cast shadows or what have you, but it’s rare. To me, the work itself can lose a bit of the charm and personality when photo referencing too much in certain places. There’s a lot of guys who do it brilliantly and it seemed since the advent of Alex Ross’ popularity that it became the craze. Whenever I’d spoken with Alex I’ve told him I blame him for it. *laughs* It seems like it became a big competition as to who could photo ref the best. That’s the way I view it, I suppose. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just not right for me. But I suppose it was an inevitable backlash to the manga craze in the 1990s.
Back to your work evolving, you’ve recently started having your work digitally inked. Why did you decide to forgo using inkers on your work? I’ll argue that some artists like Leinil Yu can pull it off, but if you look at his stuff on Secret Invasion, it looks (in my opinion) more crisp with an inker.
Well, sometimes just because it’s ‘crisp’ doesn’t mean it’s anything more than to the one who likes it that way. I know people who really like the less ‘crisp’ look and people who like it rougher as well. As far as the pencils, I wouldn’t even say they’re “digitally inked”. On Wolverine I wanted to try it and I loved the results – how the pencils looked colored – and that was the bottom line for me. I love Leinil’s work uninked, and I love it inked. There’s something really cool to me about the rawness of the pencils and in my case it works if I have the time and not so much if I’ve been rushed, but it’s the same thing in my inked work. It takes time and a meticulousness for it to work really well. Yes, the inked pages are a beautiful art form but, I think uninked, it’s a cool approach to experiment with. Without exploration there’s no growth – regardless of whether every single page or cover gets pulled off or not.
Fair enough. Is this new “penciled only” style something you’ll be using more in the future or something temporary?
We’ll see. It depends on the project, but yeah I’ll use it again and again. But I’ll do the ink approach too, so you can wipe the sweat off your brow Jason! *laughs*
I see how it is! But in all seriousness, I do prefer your inked stuff. But after hearing your reasoning it makes more sense to me now and I can respect your decision to try something new. I honestly thought Marvel was just trying to save money or cut corners. Moving on, Skaar is much different from the work you’ve done in the past. How much of a challenge is it for you to do a fantasy setting?
It’s fun! I wouldn’t say it’s more of a challenge – just getting into a different mindset. I like looking at old Roger Dean Yessong covers and things for inspiration. Before comics, I intended to be a fantasy illustrator. I had tons of oil paintings in that vein. Unfortunately, they were all stolen from my apartment years ago and I never went back to it. But, if you go to my Myspace page you can see some of my fantasy sketches there.
Well, it all makes sense now. Your creatures and dragons from Skaar are fantastic. I’ve never seen this side from you before. Where do you draw your inspiration for these creatures?
I just drew them. I went through quite a process of redrawing till I got them to where I liked. Obviously, the scales were the toughest thing about it – they’re very challenging to draw – more so than I thought they’d be, but also very gratifying and pleasing when you get them right. There’s something cool about the shape of the heads and such. There was a page I drew where I sort of let my Maurice Sendak come through. It’s a splash page of three dragons blasting fire down at Skaar and I couldn’t get Where the Wild Things Are – my favorite childrens book – out of my head, and I think it came through on the page.
Your Amazing Spider-Man run was fantastic. How was it working with Joe Straczynski?
I enjoyed the scripts.
How do you feel about the direction Marvel Editorial decided to take with “One More Day”? It was almost like they rendered a lot of your work and JMS’ story null.
Well, I’m sure that Joe (Quesada) did what he thought was best for the character at the time. Did he pull it off? That’s up to the readers to decide for themselves. But as much as I understand that point of view a lot of fans have – it’s comics and history in comics can be rewritten infinitely. Each history is viable depending on who’s writing it. Yeah, I like the work that we had done, but in my mind it happened – it’s just that a character changed history. I think I read somewhere there’s a theory that Mephisto was actually the metaphor for Joe Quesada, himself, and I burst out laughing at that.
You’ve done many iconic Marvel characters – Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk. Who would you like to tackle next if given the opportunity?
I’d like to a more lengthy run on Wolverine at some point, and I’d like to do Thor or the Fantastic Four. There’s plenty.
JMS and Garney reunited on Thor would be glorious! Thanks, Ron!
Captain America: Operation Rebirth
Wolverine: Get Mystique
Spider-Man: Back in Black
Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man
Skaar: Son of Hulk