Nerd City Interview: Tom Scioli

June 25, 2009


Tom Scioli is my favorite comic book artist.  He takes the style of Jack Kirby and cranks the psychedelia meter to the proverbial eleven.  Tom’s art is dynamically stylish, unapologetically bold, and completely contrary to the bland trends of the status quo of modern mainstream comics.  Nerd City was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Scioli about the upcoming release of The Myth of 8-Opus: The Labyrinth, Godland, and his influences, from Jack Kirby to The Who.

You’re set to release The Myth of 8-Opus: The Labyrinth in August.  What can we look forward to in the next installment of the 8-Opus saga?

You’ll see cosmic romance, danger and excitement! Lots of large-scale epic battles. A lot of planet-hopping. This one is an odyssey, lots of smaller adventures inside one giant adventure. It’s got the types of things people have come to expect from my 8-Opus comics: robotic cherubim, Kirby-esque god-machines, planet-sized monsters, universe-sized monsters, men and women of mystery, morphing metallic bird-creatures. It’s a space opera.

Obviously, your art on Godland is beyond awesome, but the visual designs of many of the characters and imagery in general are equally mind-blowing.  How much say do you have in the visual design of Godland and its inhabitants?

I’m responsible for most of the design on the series. Pretty much every thing in it is reflective of my aesthetic. It varies from character to character. I had sketchbooks full of character designs and environments that I had come up with that I sent to Joe, so some of the characters were refugees from my sketchbook, Basil Cronus being the most famous example. Sometimes Joe will make special requests which run the whole range of we need three aliens for next issue, to more specific requests that pretty much say it all, like wild west gorilla-headed prostitutes. Sometimes we go with the first thing I come up with, sometimes there’s a lot of back-and-forth and revision.

Another big factor in the Godland aesthetic is that we started in a very weird place. Meaning, the character designs were pretty crazy right off the bat. You can’t start out weird and get less weird as it goes on. You have to escalate. Our “earthbound” menaces like Basil and Discordia were pretty exotic-looking, so when it came time to introduce the aliens, we had to get even wierder. The Space Gods had to be stranger than the aliens. When we got to issue 13, we had characters from a different dimension. That issue presented a really difficult challenge because how do you show a strange new dimension when what you’ve shown already has been so out there. I was pleased with what I came up with. One reviewer said about that issue, that it looked like I broke into the Jim Henson creature shop and put things together with the spare parts.

Much has been made about the strong Kirby influence in your work.  Is it frustrating that so much focus is placed upon this?  And, in an artistic era where everyone from musicians to fashion designers wear the influence of their idols on their sleeves, what does the evoking the Kirby style mean for you philosophically and artistically?

The comparison itself isn’t frustrating. I’m proud of the fact that my work is similar to Kirby’s. It’s what I’d initially set out to do when I made the decision to give comics a try.

It is funny to me that some people seem absolutely horrified by it. I’m glad you brought up music, because, yeah, what I’m doing is perfectly acceptable. Most bands, particularly every rock band since Chuck Berry, do exactly what I do. Someone once asked me if I feel like a Kiss tribute band. Looking at that comparison, I’d say no. First of all Kiss isn’t like Kirby. For the Kiss comparison to work, they’d have to be hands-down the best band in the world, the way Kirby is the best comics artist ever. The Beatles would be a better comparison. I’m like a Beatles tribute band because I’m imitating the greatest. But the “tribute band” part doesn’t fit either, because if I were a tribute band, I’d just be telling the same Kirby stories, using the same Kirby character designs, the way a tribute band just plays the same old songs. But I don’t. I write and draw my own unique stories. I create my own unique characters and settings. So I’m like a band that imitates the Beatles in terms of their approach, but writes and arranges all their own original material. I’d say a more fitting comparison is that I’m the Kinks. The Kinks sounded like the Beatles. The Beatles are their main influence and it shows. Yet, as much as they owe to the Beatles, they are their own unique thing, with their own voice, their own point-of-view. There are a million examples like this in music. Not so many in comics.

What comics are you reading at the moment?

Lone Wolf and Cub. Buddha. Dr. Strange stories, Ditko’s run and Colan’s. The new Supermen book. Barry Smith’s Daredevil issue. Kirby Hulks. I just picked up another issue of Heavy Metal with Steranko’s Outland adaptation.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what are you listening to?

Yeah. The new Green Day. Junior Senior. Ian Hunter’s solo album that Mick Ronson produced. Genesis (early stuff before they got sappy). T-Rex. Pink Floyd. The Kinks. The Who (“I can See for Miles” gets me in the cosmic mood). Apples in Stereo.

What’s on the horizon for you, artistically?

More comics. More Godland, we still have a bunch of issues to go. More 8-Opus, I have a new volume 8-Opus: The Labyrinth which is the first new one in 5 years. I promise the next volume won’t take that long. I’m working on another concept that I’d like to be my next new series after Godland ends. It’s still in the early stages so I don’t want to say too much about it.

Thanks, Tom!

Check out Tom Scioli’s blog here and his official site here.

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