On the eve of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International, Geeks of Doom had the chance to pick the brain of one of the Con’s premiere talents, Matt Haley.
Haley, a comic book creator and cover artist, as well as the creative consultant and artist supreme for the SciFi Channel’s reality series Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, not only gives us the scoop on drawing superheroines like Batgirl and what it is he’d do for a good bottle of Scotch, but also an EXCLUSIVE look at the production art from the upcoming second season of Superhero.****
Geeks of Doom: You worked on Season 1 of Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero? and will also be working on the show’s 2nd season (starting July 26th at 9pm on the SciFi Channel). Tell us what it is that you do for the series and how you came to be involved with this project.
Matt Haley: Would you believe it all started from a craigslist posting? Back when they were trying to sell the show to a network, it was at MTV. They were shooting a short pilot, and put a casting notice on craigslist, which I saw. I figured they would probably be using comic art in the show, so I asked the casting director to forward my site to the producers, and they hired me to create a bunch of art for the pilot. Then when it got picked up as a series, they asked me back, so I guess Craig Newmark is responsible for my job! As for the job, I create all the comic art seen in the show, when our contestants first appear, when they get their new costumes, and when we cut to commercial, it helps to reinforce the notion that this show is about people who want to be real-life superheroes.
GoD: Your artwork has graced the covers of many popular comic book series. Who are some of your favorite comic book characters to draw? And which were your favorite reads growing up?
MH: I’ve done most of my professional comics work for DC Comics, but the characters I love are mostly Marvel, like Spider-Man and the X-Men. And, of course, I enjoy drawing superheroines, Batgirl is one of my faves. Getting to have action figures made of my versions of Supergirl and Batgirl earlier this year was a real kick!
As for what I read when I was a kid, I really was a Marvel zombie, I think I actually subscribed to the X-Men when Paul Smith was drawing it, but the first comic I ever read and fell in love with was good old Legion Of Superheroes. I was constantly drawing pictures of “Wildfire” and “Element Lad” all over my homework.
GoD: Aside from your contributions to heavy hitters like DC and Marvel, you’ve recently started up your own comic book series, G.I. SPY. Tell us about that.
MH: G.I. SPY is basically “Indiana-Jones-meets-James-Bond”, set just before WWII. The idea is our hero, Jack Shepherd, is America’s first secret agent, an army corporal who’s plucked from the ranks because they needed a warm body for their pilot spy program. So, he’s teamed with a British spy named Kaitlin Hunter who’s assigned to nursemaid him through his first mission, uncovering a secret German “wonder weapons” program based in the Antarctic. I created G.I. SPY with my friend Andy Cosby, he’s a screenwriter and tv producer, he created Eureka for the SciFi Channel. We’re big fans of ‘pulp adventure’, movies like Guns Of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, etc., and he wanted to create an American “James Bond” hero. As soon as he mentioned that to me, I blurted out “Nazi UFOs!!” and we were off to the races. What I like about the story is that it’s very much an espionage tale , sort of “the war behind the war” as Andy puts it. The WWII nobody knows about, you know? Plus he writes really great dialogue, Jack and Kaitlin have a sort of Moonlighting banter that makes it more fun to draw than straight exposition. We’ve both been insanely busy with our respective careers, so getting issues done has been tough since we have to do them in our spare time, but we’re getting back to it this fall.
GoD: What are the main tools you use when creating your artwork (software/hardware and traditional media) and which style do you prefer (CG/digital vs. traditional)?
MH: I still do my comics work by hand, pencil on board. I also ink my own work when I have time, but I’m still learning, even though I’m a digital fiend, I don’t want to lose my facility with traditional tools. Then the color work (when time allows) is done in Photoshop and Painter. My commercial work (like the art done for the show) is a combination of Painter, Photoshop, and Illustrator. I don’t have a preference, they’re all tools, the only drawback to digital art is you can’t sell it to an art collector because it doesn’t exist, unless you do a giclee print or something.
GoD: What type of preparation goes into creating storyboards for videogames, commercials? How different of a process is that from working on comic books?
MH: I think the big difference is that when working on a TV commercial or videogame you’re being directed by a committee as opposed to doing a comic, where you’re generally only answerable to one or two people. The process is basically the same, though obviously for storyboards you’re thinking about moving the camera around and telling your story that way, as opposed to the graphic design of a printed page. I think comic book illustration is the perfect training ground of almost every other kind of commercial art, because especially as a penciller, one has to be able to draw EVERYTHING, so when a lot of us go off to do boards for TV, we don’t find it as difficult as say a fine artist, because we’ve already had to learn how to draw people, cars, dogs, airplanes, and do them quickly.
GoD: You also do private commissions. What are some of the more interesting commissions you’ve done and how does one go about getting their hands on a one-of-a-kind Matt Haley?
MH: Well, there’s the typical “Could you draw me Boba Fett-but make it female-and wearing very little armor” kind of stuff… nude versions of comic book heroines, etc. I don’t really have a problem drawing them, as long as I’m not actually drawing the characters in flagrante delicto, you know? The weirdest ones are of the buyers’ own characters, and I don’t do those very often because the buyer sometimes thinks because they’re paying me to do their character, they’re suddenly my editor, so they’ll stand over me at cons art-directing me! “Make that bigger. No, not green. His arms aren’t big enough!!” etc. So, I try to do those very sparingly. I generally only do commissions at cons because I’m usually too busy with commercial work at home. That said, I enjoy doing them at cons for fans, so if my list isn’t full, sign up! I also do them in trade, sometimes, for out-of-print or not-available-in-the-U.S. movies, TV shows, or a good bottle of Scotch. Or several pints of dark, dark beer.
GoD: What projects are on the horizon for you?
MH: Well, Superhero 2 will keep me busy through August, and after that I have a couple of commercial character design gigs. I also have a fun statue design project for DC Direct, and I’ll also be slowly generating material for my sci-fi manga coming out fall of ’08. And, of course, G.I. SPY. Andy and I are also talking about doing a kids’ property we’ve created called Sons of Asgard, that one will be a blast to draw. I also have a film project I really shouldn’t talk about yet.
GoD: CBR got a virtual tour of your home studio back in January. (It’s a very nice shade of red, by the way.) We have to know, what’s in the Adidas shoebox?
MH: A stack of my old airchecks from when I was a radio DJ, and no, nobody gets to hear them but me.
GoD: Tell us why you’re a geek?
MH: I’m a geek because I refused to ‘grow up’ and ‘get a real job’. I’m 37 and my office is filled with all the stuff I wanted when I was a kid. I get to watch (well, listen) to movies all day at work. I’m a geek because I have an unabashed love of genre entertainment, and now I get to create it. I’m especially geeky because I’m rabid about stuff few other people have even heard of, like old ’70s ‘sentai’ TV shows (basically early versions of the Power Rangers). People in foam rubber outfits beating each other up then exploding for no apparent reason, followed by tear-jerker scenes of excruciatingly long death scenes. Wow, I really need to get out more.
And now, 5 Random Geek Qs:
- Star Trek: Original Series or Next Generation?
MH:Original Series, while TNG did kick off my comics career, if there’s no McCoy, there’s no Star Trek.
- Favorite Hair Metal Band?
MH: You have no idea the can of worms you just opened, that’s like asking me what my favorite brand of Scotch is. I’d have to go with Queensryche. Although, I do still crank the Iron Maiden late at night. Or sometimes Helloween. Or maybe…
- Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii?
MH: None of the above, but only because I haven’t tried the Wii yet, I’m sure I’ll get hooked.
- Who’d win in a fight Indiana Jones or James Bond?
MH: Good gravy… wouldn’t “Indy” be in like his late 50s, early 60s by the time he met up with 007? If it’s the Sean Connery “Bond,” Indy would be startled by his resemblance to his dad, and 007 would get the drop on him.
- Peanut Butter: Crunchy or Smooth?
MH: Smooth. On an H&H bagel.
Thanks, Matt! \m/
Here’s the EXCLUSIVE look at the production art from the upcoming second season of Who Wants To Be A Superhero?. — back to top
You can see Matt Haley in person this week at the San Diego Comic-Con International ’07. He’ll be located in Artist’s Alley, at Table BB-10. You’ll also have the opportunity to see him on stage at the charity art auction, and giving product demonstrations at:
- Friday 7/27 11:00am-12:00pm – Live Art Demo on Cintiq 21UX
WACOM, Booth #5505
- Friday 7/27 2:30pm-3:30pm – MATT HALEY Signing
Hero Initiative, Booth #3848/3850
- Saturday 7/28 1pm-2pm – Live Art Demo on Cintiq 21UX
WACOM, Booth #5505
- All Other Times 7/26-7/29 – Live Sketches and Demos
Artist’s Alley, Table #BB-10
Matt can be found on the Web anytime at:
Official Matt Haley Website
Official G.I. Spy Website
Matt Haley on ComicSpace
Matt Haley on MySpace