Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with Sal Velluto!

Today, The Ghost Who Blogs is very fortunate to present an interview with "The Ghost Who Draws"- Mr. Sal Velluto! Sal graciously agreed to let me interview him for my blog. The first part of the interview appears here, and the second part will be available over at Sal's blog The Ghost Who Draws.

GWB: When and how did you first become interested in art?

SV: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doodling pictures in general, or superheroes in particular. My older sister happened to be my kindergarten teacher. I can still remember how she decorated her classroom with giant renditions of Disney characters she had drawn and painted herself. I spent endless hours watching her draw and color. As she encouraged me to help her out with some of her artwork, I gained more and more confidence in the ability of expressing myself artistically. When I was 10, I started drawing my first comic book series on notebook pages and trade them with my friends for a donought. I even tried to sell them by subscription. When I turned 12, the Italian Batman comic book published one of my little drawings. At that point I started dreaming of becoming a professional comic book artist, someday.

GWB: How long have you been a fan of The Phantom?

SV: I’ve been reading the Phantom (or “L’Uomo Mascherato” as he was known in Italy) since the late ‘60s, but I can’t say I was that big of a fan of the character as much as I was of the artists who drew it. At that time there was a substantial production of Phantom stories “Made in Italy” whose artists tried to mimic the Sy Barry/ Alex Raymond style. Since I already was a big fan of Raymond, I found myself attracted by the Phantom, just like I was for so many other comics, from an artistic point of view, no more, no less. Almost 45 years later, when I was faced with the task of drawing The Phantom, I rediscovered my appreciation for the character and for his lore; this time in a deeper, more consistent, more personal way.

GWB: How did you come to draw The Phantom professionally?

SV: Soon after Paul Ryan left “Team Fantomen” to work on The Phantom daily and Sunday strips, I learned that Egmont might have been looking for another artist. Consequently, I started exchanging emails with Gammelredax Ulf Granberg who gave me a chance to do a couple of try-out pages. Instead of interior pages, I decided to illustrate a couple of covers, which Mr. Granberg approved for publication and were later voted #1 and #2 Best Fantomen cover of 2007. Needless to say, I got the job.

Best Fantomen Cover of 2007

GWB: Who is your favorite Phantom artist?

SV: I can’t play favorites with my fellow-artists. In each one of them, with no exceptions, I find something that I like, respect and appreciate.

GWB: What's your favorite comics project you've worked on?

SV: This is a tricky question to which I always give this tricky answer “My favorite project is the one I’m working on, right now.”

GWB: You may be best known for your previous work on Marvel's critically acclaimed Black Panther.

†Since T'Challa and The Phantom are both jungle-based heroes with nifty thrones, did your admiration for The Phantom have any influence on your approach to Black Panther?

SV: Black Panther bears a few similarities with The Phantom: the dynastic line, the immeasurable wealth, and an incredible treasure cave. Besides that, there were big differences in narrative style (Both story and pictures), Nonetheless, I remember of drawing at one point a huge battle scene in which the Black Panther was flanked by some warriors who might have come from a Bandar tribe…

GWB: How much input does King Features Syndicate have in their licensed comic books?

SV: That is a good question to ask a publisher and/or an editor. When a script arrives on my desk, all the syndications concerns have been taken care of. The only thing I have to worry about is delivering good visual story-telling in a timely manner.

GWB: You've made passing remarks in previous interviews that you like Westerns- Tex Willer comes to mind- is that why you chose to move to Utah?

SV: Tex Willer is probably the best known character of Italian comics and I’ve expressed interest in illustrating one of his annuals. There have been several famous international artists ( i.e. Alberto Giolitti, Victor de la Fuente, JosË Ortiz, Colin Wilson, Joe Kubert) who have worked on these special issues, but so far, none of them has lived, like I do, in the lands where the adventures of Tex Willer take place. In the world of The Phantom, my situation would be equal if not better than Wilson McCoy visiting far off African Jungles and living with the Ituri pigmy tribe.
On the other hand, my choice of settling down in Utah was not comic-related, nonetheless it ended up being a great adventure. In Utah I met my wife , to whom I’ve been happily married for almost 25 years and raised my family, which consists of four wonderful kids.

GWB: Having worked in the comics industry for almost 25 years, I'm sure you've witnessed many changes in the way things are done. For instance, you can do your art and then send it to New York and Stockholm electronically and never have to leave Utah. †Do you see this as changing the overall flavor of comics? Do you anticipate a greater global awareness of styles and artists in the near future?

SV: I think things have changed quite a bit already. The global awareness is already here and we are witnessing it.
The computer and internet revolution, like other revolutions of the past (industrial, transportation, communication, energy resources) can continue to affect not just the well being of the world of publishing, but the well being of the world in general, if it is allowed to thrive in a free market environment and a climate of continuous innovation. We are witnessing the times when comics (as well as other media) are expanding on the internet and the iPad. We are witnessing the times when comics are on the verge of being created, distributed and experienced -in a coordinated fashion- across different media platforms. This feels like that scene in the 1998 Godzilla movie where Matthew Broderick is looking for the monster’s footprints only to discover that he is standing inside of one.

GWB: What, if any advice would you give to aspiring comics artists?

SV: Here’s my secret formula:
  1. Choose to find a way to do it, instead of one hundred excuses not to do it.
  2. Bring yourself to the same level of talent, knowledge and technique of those who have already made it in the business. Demonstrate, practically, that you know how to do your job. If you want to play in the Pro-League, learn to play like a pro player!
  3. Study history, geography, science, technology… anything that pertains the stories you work on. Make yourself and your work credible.
  4. Act in an ethical and professional manner.
  5. Accept criticism with gratitude (especially constructive criticism) when it comes from someone who’s been successful in the business. Don’t listen to those who failed.
  6. Put first things first. Don’t sacrifice your family, your health or your ideals on the altar of your profession.
  7. Take two Aspirins and call me in the morning…

GWB: Will you be attending any comic conventions this year?

SV: Maybe San Diego, this summer.

GWB: What would you most like others to know about yourself?

SV: I’d like my neighbors to know that the fact that I spend all day around my house, unshaven, in my slippers and t-shirt doesn’t mean that I’m unemployed.

Sal was also kind enough to send over these beautiful samples of his work for Fantomen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Ghost Who Sits By The Fire

This fantastic Phantom photo was included in an e-mail from our good friend, Pidde Andersson. It was so funny, I felt I needed to share it with all of you.

My best translation of this is "Alone in the woods sits the Phantom's sly brother. He tells the truth about the Phantom"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Matinee- The Phantom (1943) episode 5 "The Ghost Who Walks"

I guess The Phantom escaped being gassed, because he's back for episode 5!

By the way, that Tom Tyler can sure throw a Hell of a punch!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Matinee- The Phantom (1943) episode 4 "The Seat of Judgment"

This week, we pick up right where we left off- with fisticuffs, gratuitous gunplay and a hand grenade!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Indrajal #10- English version

Indrajal Comics #10
, 1964
Times of India
Cover: Govind Brahmaniya
Script: Lee Falk
Pencils/Inks: Wilson McCoy

A few months ago, I reached out to a fellow blogger, Mr. Walker (not to be confused with our Jungle Patrol member Mister Walker) about trading scans of American Phantoms for one of his scans of an Indrajal Phantom. Well, Mr. Walker graciously offered to send me a scan without asking anything in return. In the meantime, behind the scenes, Mr. Walker and others were busy creating the Indrajal superblog Indrajal Online. To help cross- promote the new Indrajal blog and to create an interesting side-by side posting, I am posting Indrajal #10 here in English and I am also posting Indrajal #10 in Hindi at Indrajal Online.

For those of you unfamiliar with Indrajal Comics,

Indrajal Comics was a series launched by the publisher of The Times of India, Bennet, Coleman & Co in March 1964. The first 32 issues contained Lee Falk's The Phantom stories, but thereafter, the title alternated between various King Features characters, including Lee Falk's Mandrake, Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby and Phil Corrigan, Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer, Allen Saunders' Mike Nomad and Kerry Drake and Steve Dowling's Garth. Later it also published Bahadur, an Indian comic hero created by Aabid Surti.

Unlike Australia's FREW or Sweden's Semic, Indrajal published their Newspaper reprints in color. And what color! The vibrant color palette featured in these comics is unique to Indian comics and is often breathtaking.

The covers for the early issues were provided by Govind Brahmaniya.

So, enjoy "The Phantom's Ring" by Lee Falk, drawn by Wilson McCoy, complete with the original back-up features and advertisements.

And thanks again to Mr. Walker who scanned this and to Prabhat Kumar Singh (aka PBC) who did initial cleanup on the scans and sent me the files.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Defenders of the Earth #1, Conclusion

Defenders of the Earth#1
January, 1987
STAR (Marvel) Comics
Cover: Alex Saviuk/ Fred Fredericks
Script: Stan Lee (With Bob Harras)
Pencils/Inks: Alex Saviuk/ Fred Fredericks

I'm not saying ALex Saviuk swiped from George Perez (although who wouldn't?) but there is a striking similarity between that first panel on p. 19 and a certain famous cover...