The Making of a Master: Interview with Simone Bianchi
I’m here at Metropolis Comics with Simone Bianchi, a comic artist and illustrator who lives and works in Lucca, Italy. He has taught at the International Comics Schools in Florence, Italy, and has created covers for Green Lantern, Batman and Detective Comics. For the past 12 years he has worked exclusively for Marvel, and in addition to his art he created Wolverine’s enemy Romulus. He also has an exhibit of his work at Metropolis Comics that is opening on October 5!
Simone, I’d like to ask you a few questions.
Simone: I’m here! I’m whole here for you.
Carl: First, I just started learning Italian in school. What can you tell me that will make it easier to learn?
Simone: Bad words, of course! Do you know how to count from 1 to 10?
Carl: Not really (edit: of course I do! Sorry).
Simone: That would be the basic thing to learn. And the food. The most important thing you need to know about Italian is the food. Like, how to order your food, pasta, it’s easy, it’s pasta and pizza. But, then, steak. Do you know how to say steak?
Carl: Oh, nice. I know how to say my name: “mi chiamo Carlo.”
Simone: You got it! Perfect. Bravo. Mi chiamo Simone.
Carl: You started publishing comics when you were 15. Did you want to be a comic artist for as long as you can remember?
Simone: I think so. Yes. Only for a very short time, I wanted to be a drummer. I really was in love with playing drums and I got into that very seriously for about 3 years from when I was 16 till, I was 19. Then, I got back into comic books and I fell in love with comic books again. And, since then, yes. That’s the only thing that I’ve been doing for the past, wow, that’s a long time, almost 30 years professionally.
Carl: Oh wow.
Simone: Yeah. I’m old. That makes me feel really old.
Carl: Do they have different comic books in Italy, or were the ones from Marvel and DC just translated?
Simone: We do have both. Like, we have Marvel and DC, though I have to say, Marvel has been having a better coverage through the years, much better coverage than DC. DC had a very chaotic publishing history back in Italy, and it’s a shame, but in the past years it’s been getting much, much better. And, of course, we do have our own comic books, our own comic characters, Dylan Dog, Nathan Never, Tex Willer, Diabolik (Diabolik in Italian), a lot of characters which have been around for so long, which are just as popular in Italy as American comic characters.
Carl: Nice. Your style is so different from what we usually see in comics. Who were your biggest inspirations as a comic book artist?
Simone: Ah, that’s a tough question! I mean…the one guy that dragged me back into comic books was Claudio Castellini, who used to work for both Marvel and DC back in the ‘90s, and he’s been actually my mentor. So, his artwork is the artwork that really made me feel, “hey, I want to do this professionally.” But then there are so many huge influences on me, Frank Frazetta, of course, from an illustration point of view; Alex Ross, who I consider the best living comic book artist, one of the best artists ever; and Travis Charest is another guy whose work I always look up closely and study; Sergio Toppi is another Italian artist; and John Buscema, of course; Neal Adams…too many to name them all! But, I mean, and again, these days there are amazing, great artists whose work inspires me and I can name Esad Ribic, Alex Maleev, Olivier Coipel, Adi Granov. So many good artists working right now at both Marvel and DC comics.
Carl: Nice. How do you find time to teach and create so many covers and other comic art?
Simone: (laughs) To teach!?
Simone: I quit teaching! As a matter of fact, when I really started seriously working for DC first. And then Marvel, I had to quit teaching. I’m still missing it because I love teaching and it’s a great way to stay in touch with, you know, young people and people who just discovered this form of art. But there’s no way. I can barely keep up with my deadlines and keep up with my own work. I really don’t have any time left for teaching anymore and I feel sorry about that. I would love to, eventually, sooner or later, go back to do some teaching. But, honest to God, there’s not really time left, right now, for me to do that.
Carl: (disappointed) Oh.
Simone: Yeah, it’s bad.
Carl: When you started teaching, did you encourage your students in Italy to create their own work in Italian, or did you tell them to create work in English so the big publishers can discover them more easily?
Simone: That’s a smart question! No. I have to be honest, when I used to teach, I used to teach them the basic thing about drawing and painting. Perspective, human anatomy, female and male, and how to put the two things together, and storytelling… You do that, it doesn’t matter: if you’re really good at doing this, like doing comic books, it doesn’t matter. If you’re really good, you can find a good job in Europe as much as you can find a good job in the States, really.
Carl: Nice. Out of all the comic books that you’ve worked on, do you have a favorite?
Simone: Wolverine! I’m, like, 100% sure Wolverine is just a character that really fits my style, and I always feel like it’s coming out of my hand effortlessly. Batman, of course, is another character I love to draw and paint and Spider-Man. I mean all the main characters. They’re great to draw and paint because you can give them your own touch, you know, they’re so beautiful, their costumes and the way they’ve been looking for so many years, and still, there’s always a way to give them a different interpretation, your own interpretation. I love Inhumans, Fantastic Four, sooner or later, Doctor Doom, I love villains. I love drawing and painting villains, all of them, especially Spider-Man villains.
Carl: Oh. Well, that’s obvious!
Simone: Of course!
Carl: How did you get the idea for your Marvel Masterpiece Show at Metropolis Comics?
Simone: That’s another good question! We had the idea together, me and Vincent Zurzolo, who is the owner of the gallery. We briefly met at the San Diego Comic Convention, almost 10 years ago. But then, we ran into each other again about one year and a half ago in Dubai. So, we were both attending the comic convention in Dubai and so, Vincent came to my table, we started to talk about what I was working on at the moment. And I just got started working on this Marvel Masterpieces painting. So, he was the one who said, “hey, we should do an exhibition in New York,” and I said, “let’s do it!” right away. I mean, I was enthusiastic about the chance to do this right away. So, that’s how it happened. Back then I only did 1 or 2 paintings. So, it took me, like, 14 months more, and then when everything was finished and done, we planned everything, we shipped everything from Italy, and now we have the exhibition.
Carl: Nice. Thanks for answering my questions, it was great talking with you.
Simone: Thank you so much! Carl, thank you so much and I love what you’re doing!
Simone: I’m a big fan of your work as well, OK?