From Dick Giordano to ‘New Teen Titans': Six questions with Gabriel Hardman
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Joining us today is Gabriel Hardman, who is co-writing and drawing Star Wars: Legacy and co-writing Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm. He’s also the creator of Kinski, a new digital miniseries from Monkeybrain available now through Comixology.
Now let’s get to it …
1. At what particular point in your career — a specific comic, job offer, convention, etc. — did you realized you’d gone from wanting to be a comic creator to knowing you’re a comic creator?
The moment I was convinced I’d become a comic creator was a short phone conversation with Dick Giordano in his last days as executive editor of DC Comics in 1993. I’ve actually had two separate comics careers. The recent one started in 2007, but my initial run in comics started in the mid ’90s. I had been relentlessly sending samples to any comic company whose address was listed in Artist’s Market since I was 14 years old. The best responses I got were from DC submissions editor Neal Pozner, who would write critiques back on the form rejection letter. Neal wasn’t a nice guy. He was pretty harsh actually, but that just meant his positive comments were actually worth something. Turns out he had given my name to Dick Giordano as a candidate for a new talent program Dick wanted to start up in the last couple months before his retirement. Dick gave me a Nightwing script, which I drew and would bring in for him to critique each week. I learned a lot from him. I recall several of his pointers to this day. The plan was for him to take my pages around to the editors and drum up some work for me (as well as the other artists in the program who I never met). He showed my story around and DC editorial couldn’t have cared less. Soon after there was a convention at Javits Center in NYC. I schlepped my portfolio, showing it to anyone who would take a look until then current Iron Man writer Len Kaminski spotted the Nightwing pages and got me an interview at Marvel. The artist for their new War Machine book had bailed after eight pages, and they were in a jam. I drew a War Machine pin-up (which became the promo art for the series), met with the editor and they gave me the job. But it was when I called back Dick Giordano to tell him I was jumping to Marvel that I really became a professional. I sheepishly told him I’d scored this job and his response was, “Good, you went out and got work for yourself.”
12. What comic was your “gateway drug” and made you a comic fan?
Two comics made the biggest impact on me when I first started reading. The first was New Teen Titans #39, where Robin and Kid Flash quit the team. The cover features two figures walking away against a white field with their costumes strewn on the ground. I couldn’t have articulated it as a nine-year-old, but along with the awesome action sequence that opens the issue, it’s the melancholy quality of the characters moving on and leaving their friends that appealed to me.
The second was a Marvel Tales reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #33. It’s the one where Peter is trapped under heavy machinery with water rising around him, which keeps him from delivering the serum that could save Aunt May’s life. Now that’s the kind of drama and conflict that would make Samuel Fuller proud! I hadn’t read the previous chapter and didn’t even realize this was a nearly 20-year-old reprint. But it really impressed me as a damn good story. And yes, that is how I would have articulated it as a nine year old.
23. What’s on the desk around your work area (feel free to send a picture if you’d like)?
My desk has stacks of books I turn to for reference and inspiration. On the top now is a photo book of disused factories from Japan, Jorge Zaffino’s Seven Block and a book by Dino Battaglia called L’homme de la Legion about the French Foreign Legion, not that I can read it.
30. What hobbies or interests do you have outside of comics?
I love movies of every era. Go watch Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success right now.
32. Is there a particular song, band or style of music you listen to when you work?
I like to collect vinyl records and listen to them as I work. My current favorites are the soundtrack to Mickey One by Stan Getz and David Bowie’s The Next Day. I frequently listen to Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets and Jesus and Mary Chain’s Automatic. A lot of jazz like Coltrane or Yusef Lateef or Bix Beiderbecke too.
34. What kinds of reactions have you gotten from people when they’ve first learned you’re a comic creator?
I don’t think anyone is too surprised.