Thursday, December 14, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  MightyVille's Exclusive Interview with Tone Rodriguez

Tone Rodriguez at Sac-Con

We caught up with the prolific artist Tone Rodriguez (The Simpsons comics, Shadowhawk, Lady Robotika) at this summer’s Sac-Con, and he dished to us on working with some of his favorite writers, drawing celebrities’ comic books, and some of the weirdest fan interactions he’s had at conventions. Read on to find out what he told us… then finish it up with our “Quick 3” about the artist.

You can also enter to win awesome prints of his Dexter and Cowboy Bebop artwork, signed by the artist himself, and check out our exclusive “Live Art” video to learn some of his tricks as Tone draws an incredible Rocketeer for us.

 

You’ve done a wide variety of work in the comics industry, from cartoony stuff like the Simpsons & Futurama, to super hero stuff, like Shadowhawk and Violent Messiahs. Which writers have you most enjoyed working with?

I’ve had both really good and really bad experiences with writers. I worked with Joshua Dysart when I first got into comics, and I’ve always loved working with him. It was awesome to start out working with him because neither of us knew what we were doing. He could write his butt off! He had his own way of formatting the scripts. We’d work together in the same house, so he didn’t have to elaborate in the description. We knew loosely what we were working from and went from there. So if I started drawing something and he didn’t feel like it was what he was expecting, we’d just sit there and work it out. It was this super-amazing, collaborative, fun experience that I just don’t have with the people I’m working with now. Dysart was so new – it was all brand new to him – that he was really receptive to the idea of me saying, “Hey, what about this? Or, let’s try that…” So, there were things that came out of the first book that he didn’t expect. Silly things, like adding comedy. I love putting silly things in dramatic stuff. When the tension’s so high and everyone’s so dead serious, you need a little comedic relief to play off that tension. So, that was the fun stuff. And then, there’s other people that we work with, and things don’t work out quite as well as we would like.

You take what you get, and as long as you can try to have a good experience with the work, that’s all that really matters. I mean, I’ve worked with A LOT of people. I did a Kurt Busiek story in a book of short stories called Screwed – a fundraising book for people who’ve done comic book work and then got stiffed their pay. I did a story with him, and it was the greatest script ever! Everything was there - there was not even a misprint. Its funny because you hear these stories about, for example, an Alan Moore script, which is so filled with everything that it doesn’t leave anything for the imagination. But its great, because, well, he’s Alan Moore! He knows what he’s doing! And he doesn’t want to see anything less than his vision. So, the guys who can work like that, I love it. I feel like, if you give me everything you want and its really well-defined and you know exactly what it is, I can work inside of that and pull other things out of it. So, that Kurk Busiek script was great.

And then I get scripts from Bongo, from Batton Lash, even the celebrity scripts I get, and they have someone like Bill Morrison contributing to it, so they are always great. They really are adamant about making sure that everything that’s in those scripts is really important. Batton, of all people, he even sometimes does layouts. He won’t draw the whole book, but he’ll do layouts for the artists to show what he was thinking.

The new guys can be like that too, and like I said, I love working with writers who are new to the industry. They can be like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes it can get annoying just seeing the same thing over and over again. And new guys, because they are so unaware or unsure of what they are doing, they’ll do little things like put notes three pages in advance of something to say “this is important”. And, you know what, if its important, yeah, let me know before it happens! I can’t tell you how many scripts I’ve been given where something important happens and you get a note four pages afterward saying “that was important”, and I’m like, “What the hell? I’ve already made out that page!”

Along those lines, you worked with Tyrese Gibson and Jane Wiedlin, who were outside of comics coming in. What was that experience like?

You know, I’ve done a lot of that celebrity stuff. I worked with Thomas Lennon (actor & writer on Reno 911!) on Treehouse of Horror. Gene Simmons (bassist for Kiss) also wrote a story for Treehouse. They’re some of the people who weren’t that familiar with working in comics, but the scripts still had to go through the people at Bongo, who guided and edited it. Jane Wiedlin (guitarist of The Go-Go’s) has a good support system around her… Bill Morrison works on her book, Lady Robotika. So by the time they gave me the pages that I was drawing, they were already well worked out. I didn’t have those moments where the script was unclear and we had to figure out how to draw it. It was already working.

Tyrese Gibson (rapper/model/actor in Transformers) was different. Tyrese was really excited and really wanted to create his comic, Mayhem!. He really wanted to be a part of the industry. But I had a lot of weird moments with him where I would show him some artwork, and he wouldn’t understand why I had done it a certain way. I remember I did this one cover for the book as a Jack Kirby homage, and the idea was to make it look like an old Marvel comic book to play up that maybe there was a lineage behind the Mayhem! character. The guys we were working with had said to me, “what if this character were around in the 60s?” So we came up with this story where there’s an older character in the book who’s a preacher, and the idea was that at one point this guy was a vigilante in the past, and the Mayhem! character took over for him. We never got to that in the book, but I did the Kirby style drawing just for fun. So, I was really excited about it and we were doing a signing together and I came in and said, “Hey Tyrese, check this out!” And he just looked at me like I had three heads. He didn’t get it. And I found out later that he was asking some of his guys why I had suddenly started drawing in this different, weird style. They explained to him that it was an homage to Jack Kirby, and he didn’t know who Jack Kirby was. It was new to him. But as soon as he was told, he went out and started studying up on Kirby and the older books. Within a week, he was able to tell me all about Jack Kirby. And that’s the kind of stuff that I thought was really cool about working with him, and working with the new guys and celebrities. If there was something he wasn’t aware of, he would try to learn about it. He wanted to understand and be legitimate.

Mayhem by Tone Rodriguez

Tyrese was interesting. He came in, we had a sit down, and he pitched a general idea for a comic. But the character we ended up going with had already been created. I had already drawn the character years before. He went through one of my portfolios, saw it, and said, “That’s my guy.” Originally the character was called The Enforcer and it was an homage to a wrestler I was a huge fan of, Arn Anderson. The character was older and into espionage, and I was really excited to make a comic out of it. But my partner at the time convinced me to give Tyrese the character. I tell this story in the nicest way possible because there’s no bad blood, but its not a secret. The character can be found in one of my comic books from two years before I worked with Tyrese. So it’s a weird story, but it worked out ok.

So, you guys mentioned Tyrese, and I mentioned Thomas Lennon. I also worked with John Carpenter (Director: Halloween, Escape from New York) and Debra Hill (co-writer of Halloween and Halloween II). So, I’ve spent a lot of time working with celebrities. Sometimes I’ll get hit up to work with certain people, but I don’t just work with all of them. At this point, I have a very short list of people I really want to work with.

What’s an interesting fan interaction you’ve had at these shows that you can tell us about?

Something I can repeat? All the best stories, I can’t repeat. But I have a group of people that I see all the time. And there’s this one kid who’s a mutual friend of a friend of mine, and I was talking to him one day, and he told me he had traveled up to Comic-Con without any money. And he told me that he didn’t have money for a room, didn’t have a place to stay, didn’t have anything. And I felt so bad for him, I said, “did you eat something?” And he said, “nah, I don’t have money for food”. And I kinda took pity on him. So I took him over to Dick’s Last Resort and bought him dinner. And he has not left me alone since. He turns up at shows and is like a puppy dog. He is there all the time now.

There was another time where a guy gave me his girlfriend for the day. She wouldn’t leave. It was really uncomfortable. She was there for a long time, so I eventually offered her a chair. And she wouldn’t let me do anything for myself. I’d say “I’m going to go get a drink,” and she’d insist on getting it for me. I didn’t realize at the time, but she did anything I asked her to do. And I guess its because that was what her role was with this guy. It was really weird. I did a sketch for him, and he just left her with me.

 

Quick 3 with Tone Rodriquez

Bat-Villains by Tone Rodriguez

Which are your favorite characters to draw?
Ahhh, Batman! I’d draw Batman all day long.

What are you reading these days?
Well, all of my favorite comics are like 20 years old. I haven’t read a new comic in forever, but David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight looks awesome. I’m thinking of buying that one.

What style do you prefer drawing – cartoony, super hero, anime/manga?
Doesn’t matter to me! Its all really just different parts of the same animal. Its nice to have variety, but the fact that they pay me to do what I enjoy is what really makes me feel good.

 Thanks so much to Tone for chatting with us and sharing his experiences!

More from Tone on MightyVille:

CONTEST: Win A Tone Rodriguez Signed Print!

Tone Rodriguez Live Art Session: The Rocketeer

www.tonerod.com

 

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