Interview with Paul Neary
By Matt Yocum
Artist Paul Neary and I collaborated recently on a story in
Giant-Size Avengers Special #1, (released December 19, 2007).
I had a chance to virtually sit down with Paul and discuss his past
comics history, the Avengers special, and future projects.
Matt Yocum: Paul,
let’s talk a moment about your beginning in comics. When did
you first find professional work and what was it on?
Paul Neary: In the Summer of
1968, between leaving school and going to University, I wrote and drew
a three-page story that eventually saw print in a newspaper called
Monster Times. Once at college, I visited NY during the
next summer of ‘69 and got a script from Jim Warren, who ran a
range of black and white magazines such as Creepy, Eerie
and Vampirella as well as Blazing Combat and others.
The first story was an eight-pager, which I penciled and inked over
many months...it was published in Eerie magazine, which was
edited by Bill Dubay who became a sort of mentor to me. Big brother,
MY: Out of the long body of
professional work you’ve done, what has been your favorite work?
PN: A series called
“Madman,” which I wrote and drew for Dez Skinn’s
magazine Warrior in the early eighties.
MY: What was it about
“Madman” that vaults it to the top of the list of
what’s proved a considerable amount of comics work?
PN: Well, it was a personal
flight of fancy. It centered around the conceit that the principal
character, Martin Schiller, was perceived as a madman by the outside
world. He was like Davis’ Joker but more-so...he frothed and
postured and generally didn’t cut it. He put it to the reader
that he was party to the real situation that was happening and that
we, the readers were out of the loop and delusional...he was fighting
an inter-dimensional war to save our souls, against others of his
kind, other Madmen fighting for their personal existences. It was
sort of like the Green Lantern Corps. He maintained that at the birth
of the universe millions of ’Existences’ were formed in
combat with each other to resolve down to one victor at the end of
time. The souls of the victorious existence would become God for the
next Big Bang....and he was the only guy representing us... I never
got to see the story through...but well done, Dez, for giving me the
MY: You’ve also worked
with a lot of creators over the years, both writers and other
pencilers. Who have been the most influential on your artistic
PN: I have to say that my
artistic style was pretty well set by the time I started to work with
other artists. My childhood influences were the Schwartz stable of
artists...principally Infantino, Anderson, Greene, Sekowsy and Kane.
I was fascinated by how different Infantino looked when he inked
himself as to when he was inked by others. I loved his inking.
Soon after, I discovered EC comics and saw the work of the
masters...Williamson, Wood. Crandall and Frazetta...and it was
interesting to see that all these guys, for the most part, inked their
I must add that my first efforts to ink another penciler’s
work (Alan Davis on Batman and The Outsiders) coincided
with the dreaded Rotoflex printing plates of the early 80s and
we decided on using wedge-shaped lines to get around the plastic
plates which might either blot up or drop out any thin lines...this
did stick in my style, to some extent.
MY: Most people know you
from your work as an inker, a job many people don’t understand.
I think most believe inking to be simply tracing over a
penciler’s lines. Can you talk about the role of an inker, what
you do, how you influence the art, maybe a little about your process
to approaching inking.
PN: I think
“tracing” is an urban myth...all cartoonists can draw and
ink to various degrees of effectiveness. Penciling entails
storytelling, layout, figure drawing and setting the scene using
memory or reference material to pull a scene together...
Inking entails looking at an unfinished idea, in various degrees of
detail that it is your duty to encapsulate into a consistent finished
piece...if you don’t add much, then the allegation of tracing
might be made.
I adopt pencils as if they are my own work...and try to imagine
where they are going, artistically...any additional work I have to add
in, I attempt to do in the style of the penciler.
MY: Now let’s talk
specifically about the Giant-Size Avengers Special. How has
your art, specifically your penciling, changed over the years? And
have you kept up with penciling, or has your inking kept you so busy
that you’ve had to focus primarily on it?
PN: I have never tried to
’keep up’ my penciling...every time I come back to it
things have moved on and the pencils look different...it does,
however, take time to get up to a commercial speed.
MY: How did you get this
assignment in the first place, penciling an Avengers story?
PN: It took an act of
God...I hope John Barber doesn’t take exception to my referring
to him in this manner. I suppose he has a long memory and isn’t
afraid to think out of the box.
MY: I agree that he’s
not afraid to think out of the box. After all, he took the story from
me, someone who had never penned a comic book tale before this. Did
you work with John before, and if so, on what?
PN: John had proved himself
to be one of the good-guys while I was working with him as Editor on
the Ultimates book, which I was inking.
MY: What was the most
enjoyable part of working on this story?
PN: Drawing the characters I
grew up with was a blast...especially Doc Strange. Also, I guess
things have changed since I last penciled regularly (on Captain
America in the mid 80s) and maintaining an ongoing dialog with
the writer was a real bonus...back then, you got the script in the
mail and you were on your own!
“What are your thoughts on
Captain America dying?”
“Things move on, in comic books
as well as in real life. I miss my cat, I miss my dad, and I’ll miss
— Paul Neary
MY: What was the toughest
part of penciling this?
PN: The visiting of key
scenes in Marvel history was inextricably mixed up with the styles of
the artists who originally drew the scenes. It was hard to decide how
much of the original artist to let come through as the scene was
MY: I had a feeling this
would be a difficult balance, holding to the artistic style of the
flashback scenes while allowing your own style to come through.
What’s the thing you miss the most about penciling?
PN: Doodling a daydream,
liking the look of it and tightening it in to the point where it looks
back at you from the board and says..here I am!
MY: Drawing an Avengers
story can be tough, with all the characters and locations. Which
characters from this story did you find more challenging to render,
and which characters came easier? Or was it a setting in this story
that posed more of a challenge?
PN: None of the characters,
or settings was a problem...weirdly enough, I came to realize that
tying down continuity into a consistent patchwork could be a problem.
Avengers mansion is a moveable feast — the more versions you
consult, the more variations you encounter. I decided to use David
Finch as my guide and even then plotting the path of the crashing
Quinjet became a Sherlock Holmes adventure. The first panel of page
3, the trashed Avengers Mansion, took an inordinate amount of time.
Not only to draw it but mainly to imagine what damage went where.
Also, I suspect that not even David Finch knows where the swimming
pool he so beautifully drew actually was!
“The visiting of key scenes in
Marvel history was inextricably mixed up with the styles of the
artists who originally drew the scenes.”
— Paul Neary
MY: On page 8 of this story,
you have a panel that’s a collage of images coming from the
Avengers Disassembled story line — to me it’s one of the best
images in the story. I’m curious how you approached this
collage and put it all together. Did it take you a while to lay out
the design for this panel? Or did it come all at once in your head?
PN: I drew preparatory
sketches of the necessary images... then I merged them together to
present a contained unit. It was constructed around the Spider-Man
figure, which I wanted moving from left to right. He was hitting
She-Hulk and the rest of the images fell into place around that
MY: I was asked this before,
so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this as well. Captain
America is dead in current Marvel continuity, but this story takes
place before his passing. What are your thoughts on Captain America
PN: Things move on, in comic
books as well as in real life. I miss my cat, I miss my dad, and
I’ll miss Steve Rogers.
MY: A lot of readers are
interested in breaking into the industry. Do you have any words of
advice on how pencilers and inkers can get their foot in the door?
PN: Be energetic, find an
art-style you can really get behind and begin to make shapes and lines
that look authoritative. Spot your blacks.
MY: Okay, final question.
What’s next on your plate? What have you been working on
lately, and what do you have lined up?
PN: I want to do more
penciling as a sideline at least to regular inking work. I have just
started inking Khoi Pham on the Hulk book and I am really enjoying it.
His work conjures visions of Gary Erskine, Walt Simonson, and even
Pepe Moreno...this must be good.
MY: Thanks for your thoughts
on everything. I just have to say you’ve been great to work
with on this story, and it’s been both personally and
professionally rewarding for me to get to know and work with you.
Thanks for making my first Marvel experience so incredible.
PN: I too have greatly
enjoyed this one, quite apart from this being the first story I have
both penciled and inked for Marvel ever. I have to say that the
constant banter we maintained throughout the process was creatively
indispensable and also great fun. Thank you very much for that!
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