by Will Henderson
Today’s “What If… Magik?” imagines a path for Illyana Rasputin (Magik) that didn’t lead to joining the New Mutants, swapping places during Inferno with a younger version of herself, dying from the Legacy Virus, and re-emerging from Limbo to ultimately re-join the New Mutants and then the X-Men.
Illyana’s “what if?” path leads her to Dr. Strange, and eventually to her claiming the role of Sorcerer Supreme.
The issue boasts a cover by artist Jeff Dekal, known primarily for his cover work on issues of Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Hulk, and Kingpin. Dekal spoke with The Beat in advance of the issue’s release.
Will Henderson: Was working as a comic book artist always the end goal for you?
Jeff Dekal: I have never had an end goal. I still don’t. I believe that one domino has to fall before the ones in front of it are able to. I plan what I can, but a huge part of the organization (or chaos) of the universe requires it to make a move before we can make ours. I’ve loved making art since I was a child and always figured I’d end up doing it in some way as a career, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a Marvel editor at SuperCon, the first local convention in Miami I ever bought a table at, that I was given my shot in comics.
Henderson: What was the path you took to your cover work?
Dekal: There was no way I could have planned for that except to spend basically my whole life drawing to get my skill level to a point where it impressed that editor and I was given my chance. That first project for Marvel was painting covers for Journey Into Mystery, and after that project ended, I spent four years very actively attending conventions and investing a lot of time and money into networking and creating relationships in the business. I didn’t gain steady work until nearly five years after [Journey Into Mystery].
Henderson: How do you think your style has evolved during your career?
Dekal: When I first got into comics, I was basically only a painter, but being exposed to so much line art and flat blacks and seeing how you could still achieve form like that really interested me. Inking was never something I even attempted. I have since tried to incorporate line and flat abstract areas into my workflow. Some pieces are more successful than others, but I am always searching for that delicate balance of painted form and flat mark making.
Henderson: What’s your process for creating a cover? Do you read the script? A synopsis? Get a general idea and work from it?
Dekal: It’s seldom that a cover artist ever reads a script. The cover is usually the first image that needs to be promoted for a book, so there is usually little to nothing written when I begin my process. Usually the team has a direction for the story and I am given a few sentences to get me going, but usually not much more than that.
Henderson: Do you create multiple versions as you work, or do you always stick with your initial idea?
Dekal: I have to submit at least two sketches first. After my editor chooses one, I pretty much just go for it. Time is usually tight, and even if it’s not… I do my best to commit to decisions when I’m painting a cover. If I think I want to take some brave new direction in the middle of a piece, that decision can just call for a new layer in Photoshop to try it out. Other than that I basically stick to my sketch idea.
Henderson: How did the “What If… Magik?” cover specifically come about?
Dekal: No different than any other cover job. I got an e-mail asking me if I was up for it.
Henderson: What are your career aspirations?
Dekal: I definitely need to finish my creator-owned story that I wrote and am drawing. [It is] all painted sequential panels, so it is taking me forever. I also want to create larger paintings with no deadline, and just go for whatever the piece asks of me. I’d also like to explore other entertainment industries and fashion illustration.
Henderson: What’s your favorite part of working as a comic book artist?
Dekal: Being my own boss. Making my own schedule. I am very fortunate and grateful in that regard. Also the conventions. Traveling. Meeting people in different parts of the world who know, admire, and support my work. Making great friends in the industry. The kid inside of me also gets excited that I have somewhat of a budget and access to buy original work from some of my art heroes. My friends are insanely incredible artists as well, and I get to trade works them. I am a major art fan as well as an artist.
Henderson: What advice would you like to share with our readers?
Dekal: The universe has different plans for us all. Find your own way. There are many, many keys and many, many doors. Make your own mistakes, learn from them, develop your style, your network, your support system, and do it for a long time, and don’t give up until you get what you’re looking for or your path brings you to a fork you may have never planned for and you take a turn into the unforeseen. Be productive and diligent with your time, but never neglect your loved ones. Balance everything. Never stop learning and questioning. Eat healthy. Exercise. Sleep well. Get to work.