Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Starting his artistic career at the tender age of four, Jonboy Meyers has quickly become a versatile and skilled artist, his most notable runs including characters like Spider-Man and Spawn. As a huge fan of both, I had the pleasure of talking with Jonboy over Skype about his career, art, and what one should call the pointy bits of Wolverine’s mask. When and how did you go about starting your artistic career? I’ve been drawing and doing my own comics pretty much my whole life, since I was about four. My dad was in the military and he’d always bring home comics. He was an MP in the army and occasionally he would bring home comic books, mostly comics like Weird War Tales and Unknown Soldier, things like that. I got really into stuff like that and one day he brought home a Captain America comic, and I had never seen a superhero comic before. I just flipped out, I was like, “What is this?” From then on, I got what a lot of people call “The Sickness,” so I got The Sickness and I started doing my own comics and I’ve been doing them ever since. There’s no one way to get in, really. For me, for about four years I did a lot of independent stuff and going to shows. The benefit of going to shows is that you always meet a lot of people. I met guys like Val Staples, who’s a comic book colorist, and he always wanted to do his own thing. I met other guys like Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, he does Walking Dead now but back then he was doing a book called Battle Pope. And a couple other guys, but we all did shows together. They decided they wanted to do an anthology one day, so I started up a thing called Double Take, that was first, maybe four years worth of doing independent stuff. Under Robert’s Funk-O-Tron banner we did Double Take, and a black-and-white anthology called Ink Punks. And I did a short story in a Battle Pope anthology. During that same time, Val had license for all the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe stuff. If you remember all those crazy He-Man comics from back in the day, in the 90’s and 2000’s, we went ahead and did all those. And Val started up this company in a town called Lynchburg, Virginia called MV Creations. I was pretty decent at promotions and talking to people, and he asked me if I wanted to be the marketing director, and I’m like, “Yeah sure, why not?” He’s a buddy of mine and I wanna help him succeed and hey I’d be working in comics. It’s a win-win. I went ahead and moved out to Virginia, I worked for the company, I did it at home while I was working a regular job for about six months. It was my job to help land new properties, we did some of The Dragon’s Lair, and Space Ace Comics. We did those with Don Bluth and we had done a lot of stuff with Rob Zombie, doing his Spook Show Spectacular. But then the crash of 200o hit for comics and we went from selling 150,000 copies to maybe 20-30,000, which is not really bad, that’s actually pretty good. But then hey, Val was paying a support staff and licensing fees to Mattel. Usually, when you license a book it’s really hard to make money off of, they’re guaranteed a certain dollar amount that’s kinda like, tithed off the top. You’re never gonna see that again. The comic market kinda turned, it got to a point where it just wasn’t financially viable to stay at the company because in order to survive we had to do pay cuts. I had some personal stuff going on at home in Colorado. I decided to leave the company and I said, “Hey guys, with me leaving, it’ll probably save the company money and give the other guys a decent rate to do stuff.” At the time, I had just lined up Rob Zombie stuff, so I thought the company was gonna be okay financially. I went back to Colorado and didn’t know what I was gonna do, and I decided I’d make one more go of this comic thing, and if it didn’t work out I’d get a “real job.” So I put together some Spider-Man samples and sent them off to Joe Quesada. I got an email back a week or so later, he said he really liked the samples, and he’d forward them on. I got a conference call from him and CB Sebulsky and they asked me if I wanted to come on board tomorrow and work on Spider-Man. I thought I was getting punk’d at the time. It was like, what? Really? They said “No, no, this is a real call, we’re serious”, which is nice because I went through some high highs and some low lows. I really wanted to do comics, just kind of putting it out there, and thankfully something happened. That happened in 2000-2001, and I’ve been working ever since. Who are some of your artistic influences? My five biggest influences are, and it’s pretty apparent I’m sure, are Michael Golden, Arthur Adams, Jason Pearson, J. Scott Campbell, and Joe Madureira are the five guys who growing up as a child of the 90’s, collecting comics, any time for me an issue or cover came out I’d pick it out. I don’t know, there was something stylistically about how they tell their stories. It’s kind of cartoony but at the same time, a lot of energy, and those are things I really responded to, and those are things I tried to incorporate into my own work. What do you think sets your art apart from other comics’ art and how would you describe your art in your own words? That’s tough. I don’t know how to describe it, I’m always trying to tell stories that help immerse you in it. Help you feel something, like if a character’s angry you’re gonna get the fact that he’s really angry, I try to put as much energy as I can onto the page. You know, there’s a lot of choice out there. And for me, I’m trying to make sure you get yout $2.99 or $3.99’s worth. When you’re reading comics that I draw, I try to do things and pik camera angles and poses that you don’t normally see that are playing up the characters’ strengths. If a character flies, you’re gonna see some really cool, dynamic flying, things like that. I’m trying to do things that have much more of a kinetic feel to it. I’m also a big fan of anime, there’s a lot of great anime out there like One-Punch Man, does a really good job of skewing reality a little bit. I try and take that and apply it to my comics. Even more so now that I progress in my career and you know, get better. I wanna bring in more of those elements. Because the idea about comics is that it’s okay to have comics grounded in the real world, but comics are about skewing reality a little bit and bending what we think is believable. You can make it feel believable and entertaining. I’m always trying to do stuff like that, I’m always trying to push this envelope of what I can do and make people feel. I hope I’m doing it successfully. Sometimes it’s kinda hit-or-miss, sometimes it’s like “I can see what you’re trying to do, it’s not quite there yet, but as far as how I would describe my work, it’s kinda weird.” It’s kinda always like chasing a ghost if you understand what I’m saying. As an artist, a lot of my friends tell me you’re supposed to compete with yourself. But when you have influences and people that you’ve always looked up to like Joe or Scott Campbell or Jason or Mike or Arthur, you see in your mind how great they compose their panels or how dynamic their characters are, for me, that’s what I’m chasing. I wanna be as good as those guys, I wanna be as dynamic as those guys. Sometimes when you finish an issue or a pin-up or a cover, you stop and look back and say, “Was that a win or a fail, how’d I do on that?” Everything you have in you sometimes, it’s really hard to try and get all that down on paper. You always tend to compare yourself to your heroes, and you always wanna be as good as or compete on the same level as them. For me I always feel like I’m falling short. So I’m always trying to push the envelope of what I can do. I don’t know how to quantify or describe my work, but I think for me it’s always a work in progress to get it up to the level of the guys who inspired me. That’s what I’m trying to do. Is there any period of art history that interests/inspires you? I’m a bit all over—I’m a big Rothko fan and a fan of all the Renaissance painters: Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Raphael. These storytellers used a single image to convey emotions, an idea or scene…to me they are amazingly rendered stories. You have a pretty comprehensive portfolio. What’s your favorite character or scene to draw? I think two or three of my favorite characters would be Captain America, Wolverine, and Batman. I’m a child of the 90’s. Those books were really big, they’re still really big. Wolveirne I guess, is dead, or he’s an old man, and his daughter is Wolverine? I don’t know, it’s really complicated. I mean great characters and dynamically great characters because you’ve got like Jim Lee and other guys who’ve made those characters ingrained in our brains how amazing they are. Those are my three favorite characters to draw. I haven’t done a lot of Batman though. I don’t know why. I should. Maybe I feel like Jim Lee does it so well, I’m like what do I have to say about Batman that’s not already out there? When you’re drawing a character, the idea is to try to come up with something and make it your own. I’ve figured out Captain America a little bit. I’m pretty close to finding my own Wolverine. But as far as Batman I haven’t quite found that take on it to where he’s unique. What’s different about your Captain America? I have a tendency to draw Cap a little bit more tank-y. A little bit bigger. To me in my mind, he’s basically a tank with a shield. That’s how I feel my Cap is, he’s a big dude. In my mind he’s like 6’3″, 250 pounds, he’s not like a Chris Evans-type Cap where he’s a little bit leaner. For me he’s a big dude with lots of pouches and military gear. He feels very utilitarian whereas a lot of other artists draw him a different way. I think Marvel’s getting a little bit more on board about drawing him with a helmet and about playing up that military element. When you see other characters, you’re at that point now where your eye’s pretty trained to where if you see a Jim Lee Batman, you know that’s a Jim Lee Batman because there are certain cues of it. For me, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I don’t know if I wanna do a big, wide, fat belt or big ears or short ears, how do I wanna play up the cape? I haven’t worked all that stuff out in my head. Whereas Wolverine, my Wolverine is, maybe I still haven’t figured him out. In my mind, the premier Wolverine artist is Joe Madureira. He has done so much great stuff for the character. It’s like, aw man what would I do differently? I’m still kinda messing around with it, because when everyone does his mask they do it up big and I’m like, well, maybe to distinguish my take on it, I don’t know what you call them, the fins on his head or something, maybe draw those a little bit shorter to harken it back to his classic costume. There are certain ways as an artist you don’t want to do things that feel generic or kind of just blend into everything else that’s out there. As an artist you wanna do things that set yourself apart from everyone else a little bit even though you’re chasing after your heroes. You wanna do something that feels like your own take on a character. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. That’s what I like about comics, they have the same characters for so many years but they have so many different takes on them. Yeah, that’s kind of a thing. Like with Spawn, I gave him a mouth and I gave him teeth and people were like “Oh that’s Venom!” Well, yeah. Capullo towards the end of his run actually gave Spawn teeth and occasionally he’d make them look like fangs. I guess he’s Capullo so he can do that and people won’t give him shit about it. When I do it, people say I’m ripping off Venom. I’m trying to do something different with the character, I’m trying to set the character apart. For me the idea of just doing a character with…I mean he’s essentially Spider-Man when you think about it. I’ve drawn Spider-Man for like, eight years for Marvel. And it’s kind of like I’ve done a lot with Spider-Man and there’s only so much you can do with the eyes to make them emote. Al Simmons is coming back from the dead, he’s gonna have a new take. It’s like let’s make him feel a little bit more dangerous and more aggressive, let’s do something different. It was a little hit-or-miss. As long as I was drawing the book, I was like, “Hey, he’s gonna have teeth.” I think he should have teeth, he’s a demon’s lackey. Demon lackeys need teeth. Yeah, people gotta eat, right? What did you mean when you said Spawn was essentially Spider-Man? Well with Todd fresh off his run on Spider-Man, he created Spawn which was essentially Special Ops Spider-Man with the Venom Symbiote… and for better or worse that’s Spawn. For me the faces followed the same principle—tight mask with eyes to emote with. Very quick and easy to draw and super helpful on deadlines. What draws you to those characters in particular? I think it’s more about the stories and idea behind these characters—with these guys and their stories imprinting on me at such a young age—it’s hard not to like them. Most of the stories which revolve around these characters are at their core very human stories of dedicating themselves to a higher principle or idea—which didn’t deal with outer space or anything like that—making them relatable…for me being a kid reading these stories—I always thought that I could become Batman or Cap. Do you have a piece of work you’re most proud of? None really—I think whatever I finish is my current favorite, which lasts about 5 minutes then I look back at it and see all the errors, missed opportunities. You said that you want to make people feel something when they look at your art. Have you had any interactions with fans that showed your art impacting them? Yes I’m always listening to what fans are or are not responding to and try to incorporate that into my work. If there’s something people don’t like and they make a really good point and I agree with them—I’ll make sure to correct it, improve it or do better on the next issue. Feedback is a great thing—though at times you have to sift through a lot of the BS to get to the core of an issue—but for me at the end of the day—it’s about doing great work and that’s all the really matters. Working on both indie comics and at Marvel, have you developed a preference for either? What do you like about the indie scene and how does that compare to working somewhere like Marvel and vice-versa? I like indie books—you’re not so tied to continuity and you can take more risks with the characters and the types of stories you tell. Most mainstream books you’re tied to a lot of the crossover stuff that can really water down the stories—and at the end of the day—I love telling great stories. What advice would you give to up and coming artists? If you want to work in comics—start drawing your own comics. That’s how you learn—be a sponge, read books on cinematography, and storyboards—apply what you learn and practice, practice, practice. — Jonboy is a ridiculously talented artist who has a hugely comprehensive portfolio. He’s also super modest and really easy to talk to. I had a blast interviewing him, and anyone reading this should check out his art!