Interview with Paul Neary

Interview with Ace Masters

By Matt Yocum
Published: 2008-01-02

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 was published in Eerie magazine, which was edited by Bill Dubay who became a sort of mentor to me. Big brother, probably.

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 chance.

page 8, pencils only

page 8, inked
(click to view complete image)

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 style?

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 own work...

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...

page 3, inked

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 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 Steve Rogers.”
— 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 re-created.

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 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 central dynamic.

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 dying?

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!