Martin Coccolo is a well-known comic artist hailing from Uruguay. He has a decade of experience working with some of the greatest publishers in the comic industry. His most recent artistic journey led him to the realm of ‘Asgard’ where he collaborates with top-tier writers like Al Ewing and Jonathan Hickman. This series has been a thrilling journey for him, and his illustrations have brought the God of Thunder to life in a way that is bound to impress fans worldwide.
We got the opportunity to ask Martin a few questions regarding the series, and here’s what he had to say.
Comic Basic: So, first question, how did you get into Comics, what was your experience growing up, and what was your experience growing your career in Uruguay? Was it hard to make it in the USA?
Martin Coccolo: I started pretty much like everyone else. I fell in love with cartoons, and so I was watching cartoons pretty much all the time. It wasn’t like today.
Today, you have so many options, and you can stream anything you want 24 hours a day. So I watched pretty much anything that was on TV, and when I learned to read, I pretty much combined both passions I had. I started to draw whatever I could and read whatever I could. I slowly started to find out about comics.
Growing up in a small country made it difficult to find many comics. It was especially hard to follow a single series, so I would try to find a complete series. Because often, you would find issue 13 and issue 14, and then it jumps to issue 20. So, it was really hard to properly follow a story.
I was and still am really happy to read, and I quickly jumped from words to pictures and fell in love with it. I would spend numerous hours just drawing whatever I could.
Soon, the internet became more and more developed, so before this time, you had to actually go to the States or Europe to try for a career in comics, but with the development online, I just started to develop a portfolio, and I just sent my portfolio to numerous publishers.
I started very small; you don’t go straight to Marvel or DC. You start with small publishers, and then if things go well, you start to climb up the ladder and try to get as high as possible.
And just like any other work, you eventually move high enough; for me, it’s been working so far. But It was a process. It was a very long process, and I’ve been working in comics for 15 years so far, something like that. It didn’t happen overnight, but I was lucky enough to be able to work from home without having to move, and I was just working through the internet.
There are plenty of self-publishing platforms nowadays for artists to self-publish basically anything. And they can get the following even before they go to the major publishers, and so growing up and trying to kickstart your career, did you ever imagine something like that happening?
No, no way. I had many influences growing up, like Bernie Wrightson and Kelly Jones. I also discovered art from Sergio Topi, and those guys were like gods to me. They were huge, and it was pretty much unachievable to me back in the day.
I was often wondering how are they able to draw so well. It was impossible. It was hard. But over time, I realized that if you work, you have to work hard and get better every day. You don’t just achieve that level; you just stay there and sit comfortably. You have to try every day to be better and continue doing so.
And if you are lucky to build an audience first, self-publishing through Instagram or whatever… I started very small. There was no Instagram while I was starting out. You start on very small projects and audition for different publishers, and sometimes those projects weren’t even paid, or they promised to be paid, and then that never happened.
But it didn’t matter at the time because it was a way to keep improving and a way to build an audience and portfolio. So even if you worked on a project that wasn’t paid, at least you built a portfolio to show to a much better and bigger publisher. And if you are lucky enough, you could try on a bigger publisher, and they would give you a project.
So, following up on my original question, when you were approached to do Thor, what was your initial reaction?
I mean, I was amazed. I already knew who All Ewing was. I knew he had made the ‘Immortal Hulk,’ which is a fantastic story. I took it right away. It was definitely very exciting. I started near the end of January, so I’ve been working for many months. It was super rewarding and super satisfying work.
One day, a leak happened, which obviously wasn’t supposed to happen. My phone almost exploded with notifications, and it was fantastic. I had to wait till August to have the first issue revealed to the public, and everybody loves it so far. It’s really exciting to be a part of it.
So, speaking about those positive reviews, everybody loved the Thor design. What inspired your return to the more classical look?
That wasn’t my decision. It was Ross’ and Ewing’s. When I came to the projects, the designs were already made. I designed the stuff that wasn’t revealed yet, But the classic Thor and Loki and all that comes from Alex Ross.
So, what did you have a say on?
I can’t reveal that currently. It wasn’t revealed to the public yet. But I do have some designs that are coming later in the story. Toranos, the huge black god, for example. But Thor’s look and Loki’s look that Ross designed, and I just reproduced it.
What was the collaboration like? Did you agree on everything? Were there any setbacks?
No problems. Everything works in a very smooth order. I basically took all the scripts, and the scripts had all the references necessary for me to just go ahead and draw. I have the story. I have the references. It’s a very simple and very fast process. So it’s not so much about discussing stuff and going back and forth. It doesn’t really work that way. It’s much smoother, and when they give you a project, they already know what they expect from you.
They give you a project based on what you’ve done before, your style. I drew ‘Banner of War,’ a combination of Hulk and Thor. So they knew what I could do regarding the battle scenes and epic stuff and blowing up.
So, based on what I did on ‘Banner of War,’ they decided to give me this project. It was never really a surprise for them in that regard. The pages weren’t all that fresh for them. They already knew what I was going to do.
Okay so, you didn’t design Thor, but if you did, what would you add to the character?
I’m joining the lot now, but it’s basically fine the way it is now. The new script asked that stuff be done a certain way. When I drew Thor, he was dirtier and rougher. He looked more tired but was super-powerful.
But this new project demanded him to look happier. He is clean-shaven, cleaner, much happier-looking than before. So it’s basically, when you take a project, you figure out what the writer wants. You try to reflect those thoughts and put them into your work. I wouldn’t change a thing regarding the way Thor looks. I think he looks fantastic for this particular project.
I make him dirtier and more broken in the darker stuff, but in this case, he should look happier.
I know you’re not allowed to reveal too much about the series, but can you share with us your most challenging panel to illustrate in any issue?
I can’t pinpoint a particular panel, but it’s a lot of work to draw Toranos the way I draw him. The way I render the character is different from all other characters. I start with a completely black silhouette and develop all the details in a different shade of gray. So, drawing Toranos is a lot of work every time.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore the character. I think he’s amazing; he is imposing, fantastic, and menacing, but it’s a lot of work to render him.
So, to answer your original question, It wasn’t so much about the panel as it was about specific characters throughout the story. Toranos was the hardest part for me, but at the same time, it was the most rewarding because he really looks great.
What about your future projects? Is anything in the works?
I don’t have any future projects for now because I’ll keep drawing for Marvel and will continue doing so for a very long time. So, I’m not quite sure what comes next. There’s nothing defined at the moment. We will do a really long run if people buy it and it’s sustainable.