Since 1992, Paul has been artistically contributing to some of the most iconic characters in both DC and Marvel Universe. His career began in his home state of Maine, where he diligently honed his skills working on black and white comics for small publishers. His dedication and talent caught the attention of Malibu Comics, leading to his first professional assignment on ‘The Ex-Mutants.’ From there, he caught the attention of DC Comics, leaving his indelible mark on iconic titles such as ‘Darkstars,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ ‘Titans,’ and the fan favorite ‘Aquaman.’ After this, he found himself bringing Marvel’s cosmos to life through ‘Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Silver Surfer.’
We got the opportunity to discuss Paul’s past, present, and future with him, so join us as he recounts some of the best moments of his career and reflects on what is to come.
Comic Basics: You are a veteran of the comic book industry as you started your work back in the 80′ with ‘Cosmic Steller Rebellers’ and ‘Wayward Warrior,’ how do you feel that your career would progress if you were starting right now in the current day and age?
Paul Pelletier: You’ve done your homework! Not many people bring up those titles. First off, we didn’t have the internet back then like we have now….networking was very different in those days. We had to do more small conventions and meet people in the industry to make those connections.
Also, we didn’t have Kickstarter to help with the costs of publishing a book…we had to do that all ourselves. As for me, I think I would have approached it nearly the same way I do now… do the best I can with an assignment within deadlines and let the work speak for itself.
What are some significant differences in the workload now and back then, as well as differences in work requirements? How did the industry change and evolve & was it for the better?
The workload itself hasn’t changed all that much…it’s still producing a decent-looking comic book within a deadline. I’m still “old school” in that I work pencil to paper….no digital.
I would say the biggest difference now is that most, if not all, of the work, can be done through scans online instead of having to ship original art all over the place. It makes the turnaround much quicker. And we don’t have to worry as much about art being damaged or lost when shipping. The other bonus for publishers is that they can now have access to talent worldwide much easier than they could in years past. More competition for guys like me, lol.
You’ve had the opportunity to work for both Marvel and DC. What are the differences between the two publisher’s environments, and which one did you favor?
I grew up a Marvel fan, so their characters mean more to me…resonate more with me. However, I’ve spent most of my career with DC…they have been a terrific company to work with. Both have been great to work with, really…I would say DC takes care of their talent a little more than Marvel, but other than that, they were both awesome experiences for me.
You’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide range of comic book series, from Superman to Fantastic Four to Guardians of the Galaxy. Which character or series did you find the most personally enjoyable to draw, and why?
For the most part, my career has been taking on whatever was available, so I always try to find something about it that I enjoy. When I drew the Hulk (with writer Greg Pak), it was one of the only times in my career I was asked what I’d like to draw, and it happened! So that project was very cool to be a part of.
I loved drawing Fantastic Four…if I could go back to Marvel to return to a book, that would be the one. Aquaman was a blast to work on…both Geoff Johns and Jeff Parker were terrific to work with. When I think about it, the projects that meant the most to me weren’t really about the characters. It was more about the writers and team I was a part of. Even in a book like Negation (Crossgen Comics)….nobody knows who the characters were, lol, but the team I had working with me made it such a fun project to work on.
Thank you, Tony Bedard, Dave Meikis, and James Rochelle!
The franchises mentioned above all have, let’s say, iconic looks and the feel of the characters. How did you manage to keep that consistency but also add that much-needed originality?
I always looked at my “style” as being traditional American superhero art, so I think I fit in pretty well with the Marvel and DC styles. The nicest compliment I got from a DC editor was that they felt they could throw any project at me because they knew it would end up looking good, no matter what it was.
There’s something to be said for being flexible, lol. It always helps to be willing and able to draw a little bit of everything…or at least get good at fudging your way through it!
The New 52 Era of DC was one of the most turbulent in recent years. You had an opportunity to work on ‘Aquaman’ and that time, and it was a project where you served as a regular artist. What aspects of Aquaman’s world and character did you find most appealing to illustrate?
Yeah, Aquaman was a surprise for me…I wasn’t all that familiar with the character, and I ended up drawing 25 issues, lol. Geoff Johns had approached me to take over the book for Ivan Reis.
First off, Ivan is a genius, so following him was a daunting task. Second, I wasn’t really into Aquaman, lol, so Geoff told me to read the trade collecting the first few New 52 Aquaman issues and get back to him. I was sold…I REALLY liked the approach they had taken with the character.
My favorite aspect of the book was the relationship Arthur and Mera had…they were just a couple that worked. I also enjoyed the whole undersea environment and Atlantis…it had such an organic feel to the surroundings, which made it fun to draw.
Are there any specific comic book artists or creators who have influenced your artistic style?
Absolutely. The first BIG influence on my style and who made me want to draw comics was John Byrne. His iconic run on X-Men with Chris Claremont and Terry Austin was what started it all off for me.
I soon was picking up anything that was John Byrne…I was hooked. And then I discovered Alan Davis….to this day, probably my favorite artist in comics. His expressive characters, dynamic layouts…fluid action….a huge influence on me. The third big influence on me was Dale Keown…I had been a fan of his before he took on the Hulk. I had been buying all of the work he had been doing for Aircel Comics…’Dragon Ring,’ ‘Dragon Force’ and others.
I loved his work back then….he was Byrne mashed together with a healthy dose of Berni Wrightson…awesome stuff. But there are tons of artists who influenced me along the way and still to this day…Frank Frazetta, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dave Cockrum, Kerry Gammill, Joe Staton, Sean Murphy, Pascal Ferry, Scot Eaton, Ivan Reis, Greg Tocchini….and the list goes on and on and on. There’s always room to learn and improve.
Are there any dream projects or characters you haven’t had the chance to work on yet but would love to illustrate in the future?
I would have to say Spider-Man…I never really got a chance to draw him when I was working with Marvel. Such a classic costume, and he had the BEST rogues gallery.
I’ve always loved Powerman and Iron Fist. Might as well throw in Alpha Flight as well.
Over the years, you’ve contributed to major crossover events like ‘War of Kings’ and ‘Fall of the Hulks.’ How does illustrating these events differ from working on regular series in terms of scale and scope?
Scale and scope is one thing…the toughest part of events like those is the coordination. Trying to stay consistent with what the other artists/teams are doing in their part of the crossover…not always easy.
I always enjoyed books that didn’t rely on continuity, like eXiles. We could just do what we wanted without having to worry that it was screwing up some other part of the universe, lol.
Looking back at your quite and impressive body of work, how do you think your style and approach to comic book art have evolved over the years, and what lessons have you learned along the way?
I can honestly say that my time with Crossgen in the early 2000s really affected me artistically. I look at my work in the 90s before Crossgen and what I’ve done since…I think that experience of working in a studio with some extremely talented people really pushed me to up my game.
It showed me that I still have a ton to learn….so much room to improve. Drawing comics is an exercise in problem-solving…how do I draw this page? How can I best tell the story? Are the characters consistent in their environment? I think the older I get, the better suited I am to try and solve these problems. It’s all about pushing on….practice and practice more. Absorb what I can from what I see and translate it as best I can in my work.
What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on, ever?
My favorite project? I would have to say Great Lakes Avengers with Dan Slott. I love Dan’s sense of humor, and his approach to comics syncs up pretty nicely with mine.
I loved the She-Hulk stuff we did together as well. And I have to mention Negation again…that book was a joy to draw because of the team I had around me and the freedom we had to do anything we wanted with the book.
What is your opinion on the rise of popularity of everything superhero related? Do you think that trend is sustainable, and will people ever get fed up with superheroes?
Like anything, things rise and fall in popularity…superheroes are no different. I think superheroes will always have a place in our culture, but I think we’re already starting to see some fatigue setting in. It’s difficult to maintain that kind of popularity over such a long time.
People will always enjoy epic stories, no matter what form. It’s just nice to see the superheroes we grew up with taking the lead for a bit.
Do you have any projects that you’re currently working on that you can share details about?
I spent most of 2022 drawing a 120-page horror/adventure graphic novel called “The Others” for the gaming company CMON. It was written by John Barber, inked by Andrew Hennessy, and is currently being colored by Laura Martin. I’m hoping it’ll be published later this year?
I’ve been working with the video game company Liithos, drawing a comic version of their property, ‘Trace War,’ written by John Garvin, inked again by Andrew Hennessy and colored by David Garcia Cruz.
I believe there is a Kickstarter campaign going on for this book now. I am also working on a John Carter one-shot with my old Green Lantern buddy Ron Marz for Dynamite. It’s early in the process, but it has been fun so far. It’s nice to still be drawing comics for a living!
You can check out more of Paul’s work and upcoming projects on his official site.