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Interview with the Father of a Genius

by msuarts on January 19, 2011

Alan Vallee

Comic creator Chris Eliopoulos’ most recent work, Avengers vs Pet Avengers, is currently tearing up the comic book world. He is everything you could ever hope for in a writer, and he is fantastically nice to a fault. He recently spoke to The Montclarion about the methods to his creative nature.

Q: You’re the author of the hugely successful Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius series of books. How did you decide to go with Franklin?

A: At the time, the current president of Marvel told me that he liked my work with Image [on Desperate Times] and he asked me to pitch a story to editorial. The Fantastic Four have always been one of my favorite teams in comics and I just love the idea of the parents flying off, saving the world and leaving all these fantastic hi-tech devices around for Franklin to “not touch.” I pitched it to editorial, they liked it, and I think the rest of the story is history from there.

Q: Your characters are some of the most unique I’ve come across in a while. How do you go about creating them?

A: What I like to do is find a personality trait and then expand on it, similar to how sitcoms do it – there’s a character who hates spending money, a stupid character, things like that. Then I start playing them off each other to create the character interaction. As far as the way they look, I just get out my sketchbook and after 15 or so pages of sketches, something will start looking right to me and then I just go from there. There’s no moment of sudden revelation in this process, just work.

Q: You’ve been around for a while, a little over 20 years in the business. What were some of your influences?

A: When I was a kid, I read Charles Schulz constantly so Peanuts is a big influence on me. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, all those old 1950s Disney cartoons, and even the people I work with. They’ve all got such amazing talents and I learn from each of them. I worked with Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon for a while and I learned a lot of stuff about storytelling, panel layout, and a lot of other stuff.

Q: How’d you get started at Marvel and in general?

A: I went to Fashion Institute of Technology and majored in graphic design. My parents and I made a pact that they wouldn’t pay for me to go to school just for cartooning, but that there was a better chance with graphic design. During this, I had a night class with Gene Cullen who took us on a field trip to Marvel, which led to me getting an internship where I spent half the week in production and half in editorial—I learned a lot there. After my internship, I got some freelance work from them and when I graduated I worked there for two and a half years. Then I moved up to lettering and found that I was making more money after I went home doing freelance lettering than I was during my day job at Marvel and I quit.

I worked doing a backup for Marvel Age magazine, a calendar that I wrote and drew for a while, then I moved on to working with Erik Larsen on Savage Dragon, lettering and eventually doing a backup there. That led to my Image book [Desperate Times] which I made as a solo effort.

Q: In the back pages of Casanova, Matt Fraction wrote about how he would have to justify comics to his kids one day and how it’s affected him as a writer. What I want to know is how has having children and being a father affected you as a creator?

A: I started doing Franklin Richards for my kids, actually. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, comics were for everyone, and since then they’ve expanded to become more adult. They cater a lot more to the hardcore fans, the ones who know all of the continuity and there’s a severe lack of comics for the younger set of readers. I knew that and I wanted to make something that I could share with my kids without having any of the mature themes, just innocent comics.

Q: What advice do you have for the young people that want to break into the comics industry?

A: Work day and night. Get an internship in one of the larger companies. Do a lot of samples of your work, if you’re an artist. The best way to get your stuff noticed is to actually do a book with your own original characters and plot and give it to editors—at conventions, on the train, anywhere is fine. Most editors can’t read unsolicited text, but there’s nothing stopping them from reading a comic published by someone other than their company. Getting into this business is nothing more than a lot of hard work

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