Dark Nights: Metal

DARK NIGHTS: METAL is the biggest event happening in DC right now. It’s the long-gestating culmination of Scott Snyder’s Batman saga,  featuring a squadron of demonic Batmen from other dimensions. Each one possesses their own distinctively horrifying design, filled with many intricate details. Tackling the size and scope of these demonic Batmen is no easy feat for an artist — but inker Jonathan Glapion was up for the challenge. 

Glapion has been working with METAL penciler Greg Capullo since the New 52 BATMAN days of “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family.” Yet Glapion’s career with DC goes back even further than that, having worked on FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS as well. ComicsVerse had the opportunity to chat with Glapion at New York Comic Con, where we discussed his long career as an inker. Glapion told us about his working relationship with Capullo, his thoughts on how the industry has changed since he got started, and the unusual story of how he broke into comics.

Dark Nights: Metal

ComicsVerse: What do you think of New York Comic Con?

Jonathan Glapion: It’s awesome. It always is though.

CV: You come often?

JG: Once a year. Been doing it for probably the past four years. I’ve only had a table for the past two of the years. Otherwise, I’m always walking around.

CV: Now, you’re currently working on DARK NIGHTS: METAL. Can you tell me what you do for the series, and what distinct challenges and opportunities it presents you?

JG: The part I play in METAL is I’m Greg’s inker. So I’m his left hand to Greg’s right drawing hand *laughs*. Inking is like [working as] a tattoo artist but on paper. As far as challenges, [METAL is] jam-packed full of tiny characters every issue. It’s a team book, that’s always challenging. You’ve got a million little faces. Just getting the work turned around on deadline is always a challenge.

CV: How did you become involved with DARK NIGHTS: METAL?

JG: I started working with Greg all the way back on HAUNT when he came back after the little break he took. So I started working on HAUNT, and then from HAUNT, I went to BATMAN: “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the family” with Greg. And then we had a little split for a minute, and then he called me back up to work with him on [Millarworld original title] REBORN. After REBORN we just came straight to METAL. So pretty much whatever Greg works on, as long as he’ll have me, I’ll always be working with Greg.

Dark Nights: Metal

CV: So take me back to “Court of Owls and “Death of the Family.” What are the differences between working with Greg on those books five years ago, and working with Greg now on DARK NIGHTS: METAL?

JG: Well the difference is DARK NIGHTS: METAL — I don’t think either one of us thought it was gonna be a team book. With “Court of Owls” you’re dealing with a lot less characters on the page most of the time. It was not as condensed when [we were] working on the “Court of Owls,” so it went a little faster. But as far as process, the biggest difference would probably be, on “Court of Owls,” I was inking over blue line. Which is sort of like I’d get a high-res file from Greg, a scan of his pencils, and then I’d print them out on a board and I’d ink over that.

Since “Reborn,” we started inking directly over the pencils, which is a thousand times better. It’s also a lot more pressure. You screw up, that’s the ONE piece of art. But it’s how I started in the industry, inking over pencils. So I sort of feel like I’m back home. It feels a lot more comfortable. I think [Greg and I] are doing our best work. We’re actually communicating with each other, which we didn’t really do a lot of during “Court of Owls,” we didn’t really talk a whole lot. Maybe every now and then through email. Now we’ll text each other or get on the phone, so the collaboration is a lot tighter now.

Dark Nights: Metal

CV: You’ve actually been involved in inking for DC for quite a long time since pre-New 52 going back to the FINAL CRISIS days. Since you’ve been involved in the industry for so long, what are your thoughts on how the comic book industry has changed, both as a whole and for you personally? How has your personal style evolved since then?

JG: I think my style has evolved in the sense that, hopefully, I’ve gotten better over time *laughs*. I don’t ever like to settle. So when I’m working with Greg, I try to make every page the better page, I try to expand and do new things. As far as the industry changing, I don’t know. It’s different when I’m working with Greg because I get to sort of hide out and be Greg’s inker. So there’s a lot of things I don’t really deal with.

I try to commit to just working with Greg because the work is so involved. So I’m not working on a lot of different books this whole time I worked with Greg, to really know whats going on. I know there’s a lot of digital inking going on and stuff like that. Sometimes people think that because I’ve done some digital stuff they think that I ink digitally now — and no I don’t, [my work is] all traditional.

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CV: What about in terms of the artwork itself? Have you noticed any change in the way comic books are drawn from then until now?

JG: Yeah *laughs*. Not to be harsh, but I think there are some things that are a bit unfair in terms of artists not being given the time to do their best work. Publishers just want the work done. The faster you do the work, the faster they want it done the next time. So you can fall into that trap. I’m fortunate enough to not have to deal with that. But that’s the main thing I’ve noticed. It feels like there’s sort of this weird [idea of] “we’ll take speed over quality.” I’m not really digging it. And it’s getting harder to find people who are doing things traditionally. A lot of pencilers are inking themselves on a Wacom (a digital inking device) and bypassing the inker. Which, y’know, to each his own, but I like the collaborative process.

CV: Tell me what it’s like to draw some of the elaborate monstrous designs in DARK NIGHTS: METAL. When you see some of these crazy Dark Knights and what they look like; what’s it like inking those guys?

JG: Inking those, well – anything with a lot of detail, I know I’m in for a long day. Magically, Greg is able to somehow sprinkle some weird magical fairy dust and shrink himself down to be able to draw so small. For as big as he is, I don’t understand how he can draw that small just using an old-school wooden pencil, and he’s getting in there that tight. And there’s cases where I might have to put a magnifying glass up to some of the faces just to get them right. But that attention to detail is stuff that I really like, and I think it can be taken for granted. We might get really excited about it, and someone flipping through the book might not even pay much attention, but it’s just fun to do.

Dark Nights: Metal

 

CV: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and inkers on how to break into the comic book industry?

JG: I always struggle with telling people how to get into comics because the way I got in was so accidental. I never had a portfolio review or anything, I just literally stumbled into it. I would say right now the advantage now from back when I got in is the social media aspect. It’s so easy to have your work seen. The pitfall is: it’s so easy to have your work seen. People have a tendency to wanna show every single thing they do. They sort of forget this rule that you learn when you apply to art school, which is to show your 10-15 best pieces. So then we get in the habit of sharing the disasters just because we want instant gratification from social media.

So I think things like that are kind of tricky. Right now I don’t know if the big two, Marvel and DC, are doing portfolio reviews anymore. So I feel a little bad for guys trying to break in that they don’t get a specific place to go to where they can get that feedback, that honest feedback. But social media, I mean, Instagram, Twitter — most editors now are on Twitter. So if you’re courteous and you share your work with an editor, I think it’s easier to be seen.

CV: I’m just curious, when you say you stumbled into the industry, what was that process?

JG: That’s a long story but I’ll try to shorten it. I never really drew comic book things. I went to school for illustration, then I dropped out, lost all my art supplies, moved back to Phoenix, Arizona, and I saw a segment on Entertainment Tonight on how SPAWN was made, and it showed Greg Capullo and Todd McFarlane talking on the phone. And I realized, oh wow, that’s a job. And I would like to have a job other than working your traditional job. So I kind of started to ask around ‘how do you get into comics?’ And I saw a flyer for a local comic book signing [by inker Chance Wolf]. At the time the inker that was working on SPAWN and CURSE OF SPAWN was Chance Wolf.

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JG: I was trying to find a penciler, but I figured an inker was the closest person to actually touching the original page, so that was good enough for me to just break in somehow. So I went to the local comic book signing, and I just asked [Wolf] ‘what size nib do you use?’ And that was my only question and I walked away. And I think he thought that was weird enough [to intrigue him.] After the signing he came up to me and started talking to me, gave me his business card, said he was looking for an assistant. And it just so happened when I called him the next day, he wound up living in the same apartment complex as me.

CV: Oh wow, that’s crazy.

JG: That complex was a five-minute drive from Todd McFarlane’s house, and ten minutes from Todd McFarlane production offices. So I was in the middle of everything Todd McFarlane related, I just never knew it. So I started assisting for him. I did it for free for the first month, just literally spotting blacks, filling in black shapes with a paintbrush. Just the bottom of the totem pole and I was fine with that. Then from there — I think it was nine months later — I was inking full pages by then, but Todd McFarlane offered me my first solo inking gig on SAM AND TWITCH. That’s the sped-up crazy [story.]

Dark Nights: Metal

CV: That’s a very unique, distinctive story.

JG: Yeah, so it’s hard for me to tell people how to exactly break into comics because it was such an unusual way that I went about. I really don’t know how to — you know some guys go to shows to get portfolio reviews. I never did any of that, I never submitted anything. Sometimes you just gotta get lucky. But if you’re always working then you should be always ready.

CV: So I just have one more question. I know you can’t tease the story of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, but are there any images you can tease that perhaps we haven’t seen yet?

JG: Well I can’t really say what’s on it, but the issue #6 cover is the best cover of all of METAL, and I get that one back [to ink]. God, I wish I could tell you what it is — but it’s so crazy good.

CV: Is it some sort of weird fearsome demonic figure type of thing?

JG: That’s going on. It’s everything you wanna see in a cover. Yeah. It’s my favorite one.

CV: Well I am intrigued. Thank you very much for your time.

JG: Thank you.

Our thanks to Jonathan Glapion! DARK NIGHTS: METAL #1-3 are now available in comic book stores everywhere.

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