One of my favorite things about comics is regularly discovering amazing, innovative artists. A recent illustrator to blow me away was artist Nick Robles. He recently completed Euthanauts, a miniseries with Tini Howard for Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint. Since then, he started working at Marvel on titles like War Scrolls #2. I really appreciated the opportunity to ask Nick about his influences as an artist, his intricate linework, and the state and future of his career.
Your comics involve a lot of beautiful, complex layouts. How is creating those intricately designed pages uniquely satisfying?
Getting out of the box really let me spread my wings and bring in things that I had previously separated from comics. Being able to say things, or symbolize them, without having to stick with the classic panel structure added a whole new level of interest for me.
With comics you can break all the rules, just as long as your narrative is clear to the reader.
Do you work with the writer to incorporate the layouts into the story, or do they happen naturally as you draw the comic?
With Euthanauts, I remember Tini only detailing one double page spread to me. Which, we were so in sync, her doodle and my rough sketch were nearly identical! Mostly it’s just me having fun with the scripts though.
Your drawings invoke a deep love of fantasy. Was the genre a major influence on your art?
It is! I’ve been craving it lately. Before I started working in comics I was primarily a character artist/painter. Fantasy and D&D characters seemed to be my bread and butter. It’s engrained in my background and I’m thrilled you can see that!
What are some other influences on your art style?
Originally, I had dreams and notions that I would be an oil painter, before I went 100% digital. That love brought inspiration from Waterhouse, Leyendecker, Brom and many others. Video games have been another huge influence on me, the Final Fantasy series most notably. I feel I’ve changed a lot in recent years, though, and I’m finding surreal and abstract work more interesting and inviting.
How did Euthanauts come together?
I had just finished up Alien Bounty Hunter at Vault Comics, and did some fan art of Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler’s book, Kid Lobotomy. Tess requested it as a cover, and that put me in contact with Shelly Bond. She and I chatted about working together and she had the pitch of Euthanauts ready to go. I did some sketches, the team was PERFECT, and then we were off!
How did having Shelly Bond as the editor influence Euthanauts?
I could read and speak comics before, but she taught me how to sing with them.
How did you settle on the depiction of the afterlife in Euthanauts?
The Death Space isn’t QUITE the afterlife, but a moment between here and there. The afterlife’s foyer!
As for its look, aside from many space references, I think it came down to my own belief that there is no one way to truly know it. It’s a vast frontier of everything and nothing. Even with the strongest belief, we can’t know anything for sure once the lights go out. I knew If I had made it have terrain it would have been something familiar, so the emptiness was purposeful. I wanted no holds in sight, and only the sheer will of our Euthanauts to be their agency.
Euthanauts is a very surreal but also a very dark story. What headspace does working on that kind of subject matter put you in?
I’ve always liked stories that dealt with death and the afterlife, but those tie more into myth. With Euthanauts, it felt much more personal and tended to make me want to live and love more. I guess books dealing with death will do that to you!
How does drawing creator-owned comics like Euthanauts differ from drawing licensed work like your War Scrolls story?
It’s night and day. I spent months crafting Euthanauts, while War Scrolls had everything designed and planned out. It felt like I blinked and it was over!
You just completed a critically acclaimed miniseries and now you’re in at Marvel. What do you hope for from your career going forward?
More work that lets me experiment with texture and line. I want to bring something new to the table. I want to make a mark on the page that is remembered!
Matt Chats is an interview series featuring discussions with a creator or player in comics, diving deep into industry, process, and creative topics. Find its author, Matt O’Keefe, on Twitter and Tumblr. Email him with questions, comments, complaints, or whatever else is on your mind at [email protected].