STGCC 2013 – 31/8/13
By Jedd Jong for F*** Magazine
If you’re a fan of Iron Man and the movies he’s been in, you’ll recognize the handiwork of Bosnian-British artist Adi Granov. F*** spoke to the comic book illustrator and Marvel movie concept designer when he was in town for the Singapore Toy, Games and Comics Convention.
Q: How did you get started in making art for comics?
Adi: Well, I always liked comics, I grew up reading comics so I went to university to be an illustrator, then I was a concept artist at Nintendo for a couple of years, and then during that time, I was building my own portfolio for my private work. Once I was ready, I showed that portfolio to different companies and did some comic work and that's...pretty much it, that's how I started. Then once some of that stuff was published, Marvel saw it and liked it and they invited me to work for them, and that's it.
Q: Do you have any advice for budding artists?
Adi: I think for me, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so...even when I was in university, I never competed with fellow students; I always had in mind that I was competing with the best out there. I would buy magazines, illustration magazines, comics and I would always think "I need to be better than that", rather than being better than…whoever was sitting next to me in class. So I just always have this idea that if I created the best artwork I could, it would be succesful, and it turned out to be that way. So I think my main advice is still "figure out what it is that you want to do, and try to be the best possible at that something that you want to do."
Q: I was wondering if you've checked out the Nendoroid Iron Man figure...the tiny Iron Man figure with the massive head?
Adi: I have one of those!
Q: What are your thoughts on that particular figure and the design of it?
Adi: I mean with a lot of the figures, there are...obviously stuff that is sold in shops in England, I live in England, is more American stuff and a lot of stuff that is more interesting to us is in Asian markets and then because of my connection to Iron Man, a lot of my friends who go and travel, they usually bring me back...so I have a lot of Iron Man figures. I even have a collection of fake Iron Man figures, my friends know that...well sometimes I don't even want them, but they think I do, so I have this huge collection of all kinds of Iron Man stuff. I have one that I don't know where it came from, I think my friend was visiting Hong Kong and he brought (it) back and you can tell that it's a Daredevil figure that they just painted like Iron Man! So I mean stuff like that I think it's a lot of fun, because it's really interesting to see the designs that I've worked on translated into something that I didn't really consider!
Q: What do you think of, I'm not sure if you're a big fan of Asian art, but what do you think of the cultural differences between art in the West and in the East?
Adi: I am a really big fan of some of the art that I see, we don't really get a huge amount and I think to me the most interesting thing to me is how you can recognize which country the art comes from. I guess it's not that different...in Europe it's the same. In Asia in general there seems to be really separate schools of...you can recognize for instance a Korean artist or Japanese artist or Chinese artist...it's a very...I mean even if they're doing between the different styles, you can always...well not always, but often I can recognize which country. It's really interesting to me, I don't know why that is, but I find it really fascinating. Unfortunately, we just don't get enough of it for me to be able to follow it. You know, we get like a book that collects a lot of Asian art from many different countries, but it comes out once a month, I think, but it collects only small portions, so there's an artist I like, but the next issue comes out and that artist isn't in there, so it's very difficult for me to develop a way to follow the art that I like.
Q: How closely did you work with conceptual designers such as Ryan Meinerding and Charlie Wen on the Marvel films?
Adi: With Ryan, I've worked a lot, very closely. I worked with Charlie on Avengers. But with Ryan, I've worked on all of the films, on all three Iron Man films and then The Avengers. When I worked on the first Iron Man film, Ryan was like a junior designer, but then with each film he was getting promoted and so on the last two films we worked on, he was a supervisor. But he works in the studio while I work from my own home. I don't like going to the studio, I like to...so usually when we work together, we only work over the phone or through email. I know Ryan in person as well 'cause I've met him but when we work we usually work only...I'm in England and he's in Los Angeles. And with Charlie I've only ever worked through email actually, I don't think I've even spoken to him on the phone.
Q: Many people mistake your work to be fully digital. I had a friend who said "hey, Adi does all digital..." and I said "no, he does a lot of pencils". So after that, you scan and do the wash and maybe it's digital painting. So if given a choice now, would you not do so much digital painting and do a monthly book?
Adi: I prefer traditional. If I have the time, when I do covers, if I have four days to do a cover, then I do the whole thing traditionally. I do it in acrylic and watercolour pencils...it's only if I have two days to do a cover then I do it in pencil and then colour digitally. But if given a choice, I just prefer to make that finished piece a physical piece of art. Nothing against digital, it's just...especially when you're an artist, a big part of the income is also from original art, because I retain the right to sell my own original art...when you do it all digitally, you're just eliminating a large part of your income and so it just doesn't make sense for me to do anything fully digitally because if I do it fully digitally, it's basically just like throwing away money. If that makes sense.
Adi: It just makes you realize how small the world really is. I mean, yesterday I woke up in England and here I am today almost halfway on the other side of the world; it really is…um...because when I was in Bosnia, I didn't leave Bosnia until I was 18...not Bosnia, Yugoslavia, I was in Croatia for a while as well...but the world seemed such a huge place, and artists from other countries, for me they were like gods of the Olympus kinda thing. But then when I moved to the States, I was very poor, and then again it felt like I was on the edge of the world, everything seems so far. Then once the internet came in, and I think a lot of kids today don't really realize how isolated the world really felt when you’re' a kid living in a small country, but today, everybody just logs on to the internet and you can talk to anyone anywhere. And then obviously due to my work, my work is known in many different places, it makes the world seem even smaller because even before coming to Singapore, many different places like I've never been to Brazil but I have a lot of fans in Brazil so I know a lot of people from Brazil. And it just makes you feel like the world has really become a very small place.
Q: Just backtracking a bit to growing up in Bosnia, did you get a lot of Western comics back then?
Adi: Yeah, I mean we got a lot of European comics, and we got some Western comics, some American comics like Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Batman, stuff like that. But when I was a kid, I liked European comics the most, because they were a lot more serious, you know, they dealt more with science fiction rather than superhero stuff, it's really interesting that now a lot of European comic artists work in American comics and it turned American comics because American comics now even though they're superhero (stories), they feel a lot more serious than a lot of the European stuff. But I think it's because there was this kind of crossover of a lot of European artists coming into the American comics, and then also a lot of artists from everywhere else. Leinil (Yu, Filipino comic book artist) is one of the biggest names and he's brought a real kind of sense of science fiction to him, his design sense and his art style to me just seem so much more advanced than a lot of American comics when I was a kid.
Q: What was your reaction upon seeing the first footage of the Iron Man armour in action in the first film in animatics or in the trailers?
Adi: Well, the first time I saw it was just the animatics for the...they were like storyboards, but they were animated storyboards, and it was terrible! It was really really bad, because they had...the whole thing was shot like looking from my eye level, so everything was really flat! I was telling them "move the camera, put it down, put it up, do something!" because it was really...you and I just watching Iron Man walking around, that's kinda how it was. So that's part of the process, it gets better and better and better until, hopefully, it's really good at the end.
Q: What did you think of the translation of the Extremis armour to the screen in Iron Man 3?
Adi: I don't think there was any translation, I think they just designed a new armour for the show. Plus, it's not really Extremis armour, I mean that's what they called it, but it's really not because the Extremis armour in the comic is designed to work with his…'cause he injects himself with Extremis (nanites) and the armour is made to work with that. In the film, that isn't part of the story so really, technically, it's not Extremis armour.
Q: What do you think of the trend of everybody in superhero movies wearing armour? Do you think spandex can still work on screen?
Adi: It depends, I mean, I think like proper old school spandex probably looks a bit too silly on screen but not everybody needs armour either. It's one of those things that you know, when something is successful, everyone else wants to try to...emulate it and...I think sometimes I think they take it too far in being "realistic". Like...you know, Batman. Like in the first film, the first Nolan film (Batman Begins), I really liked the suit but then later on I think they took it too far, it just looked like a motorcycle suit, just kind of done "Batman-style". So I think it can be taken too far with kind of "realistic approach". I'm trying to remember, because in X-Men: First Class, I think they wore kind of X-Men suits rather than armour and I think that really worked with the era of the film. Old-school, and I really like that. So, it really depends on how you do it. You can overdo it. Even in Iron Man, I think you know in the third film I think some of the designs were a bit "too much" in my opinion.
Q: Speaking of Leinil Yu, he will always draw his wife into his comics. Have you ever designed a character which you based on your wife?
Not specifically one character, but I mean often, a lot of my girl characters just end up looking like my wife and it's not necessarily on purpose. I mean, you know, it just kind of comes into it. If I'm drawing an ear, I will draw an ear that I'm familiar with because you know I look at her face all the time and different things kind of make it into the art. Every once in a while, I will use her as a model in some stuff. But, actually, yeah, that's her! (Pointing to a character on the cover of the Extremis special edition hardcover book). Because she used to have dark hair, she has blonde hair (now), that was on purpose, but often it just ends up being natural.
Q: Do you have any projects in the pipeline?