Marvel comics released a hardcover collection of Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera’s Mythos, a series of stand-alone origin stories for Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Captain America, the Fantastic Four and Ghost Rider earlier this month. Paolo Rivera created panel after fully-painted panel, equally inspired by illustration’s golden age as comic book’s.
I attended Paolo’s release day signing at Jim Henley’s Universe. He was as personable as ever and agreed to answer a few questions...
How did you come onto the Mythos comics?
Joe Quesada came up to me at the 2004 Philly Convention and said, “Man have we got a cool project for you.”
What was a typical timeline for the production of an issue?
This is my top question at conventions, not to mention a nagging problem throughout the project. The time taken varied with each issue, ranging from about 3.5 months on Spider-Man up to 10 with X-Men. I tried changing technique and page size a couple times throughout, finally settling on acrylic and gouache on bristol board at 11 x 17. I’d have to say the “sweet spot” was Captain America, which I completed in about 6 months (while additionally doing 1 to 2 covers per month). Eventually, I outran Marvel’s patience and we decided to end the series at 6 issues, leaving Iron Man and Daredevil in the cold.
As far as individual pages go, I can comfortably average about 6 per month.
Can you talk about something you either looked forward to or feared when starting out on the project?
I remember being simultaneously excited and terrified at the beginning of Mythos. On the one hand, this was basically my dream project: a fully-painted retelling of the origin stories of all my favorite characters told in self-contained issues—with the ultimate goal of a handsome hardcover collection. I remember being amazed that they trusted me with what seemed like such an important project. Being just 23 at the time, I did not have much experience (at the time, just 34 published pages to my name).
Then came the fear. I remember working on those first few pages for an excessive amount of time. I’ve always had a pretty good eye when it comes to my art, but that resulted in a reluctance to turn in artwork when I knew it could be greatly improved. This was in spite of the fact that I didn’t actually know how to make the necessary improvements. As with most things, practice was all I needed and I will be forever grateful to Marvel for paying me to learn.
Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
It was right after I realized that I couldn’t be a superhero.
Favorite painting you did in the past year?
What painting do you wish you painted?
This painting by Noel Sickles just kills me. Every. Time. If I could paint like this, I would have no reason to go on. Luckily for me, I’ve got a long way to go.
I would love to work on the Captain America Movie. And the Voltron Movie. And X-Men: First Class was just announced... that would be great too.
But I’ll never leave comics completely. Everything Marvel’s given me has been a dream assignment. However, I’d love to write and draw for them at some point. I’d also like to do a book called Cool Things in the Marvel Universe I Wanted to Paint. As the title suggests, there won’t be much of a narrative to this book... just pretty pictures.
Most embarrassing illustration related moment?
At a school-sponsored art show in 2002, I had a piece on display from Jim Krueger’s Children of the Left Hand. Attending the show was a group of kids from a nearby school. Another interesting fact: I was drunk.
So this guy from the other school (who happened to look like Baryshnikov) was in attendance and had brought his mom (who did not look like Baryshnikov). She quickly pointed out that the main character in the painting was holding a pen in her right hand, while in the book she was left-handed.
Now I’m usually a very honest guy, but I vaguely remember giving her an explanation other than, “Whoops, I really messed up, ma’am!” She and her son, who had previously been extolling the virtues of my talent, slowly backed away, B.S. shields at full power.
Here’s the digitally altered piece:
A career highlight?
In 2006, I was invited to be a part of Savannah College of Art and Design’s Comic Art Forum. I felt honored to be part of such an impressive group of artists, most of whom I had met after a day or so of activities. Adam Hughes, one of my idols from adolescence, was the only one I hadn’t met.
Just before we split up to teach our individual workshops, I saw Adam to my left and tried to build up the nerve to introduce myself. Right as I was about to do that, he made his way towards me and asked, “Are you Paolo Rivera?” He went on to say how much he loved my artwork for Mythos: X-Men and how it had jumped out at him on the stands. I just stood there, shocked, until someone told me it was time to teach my class.
Currently Paolo is working on The Amazing Spiderman. To see more of his work visit his website, blog (includes lots of process info), “for sale” site, and of course, his Tor.com gallery. And, here’s a “Heroes, Villains, and Artists” Interview: