The following is an interview with Mark Gonyea, who is a comic book creator and scratchboard card artist. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Contributor Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Gonyea about how and when he began his work as an artist, what intrigues him about working with scratchboards, his experiences in exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con, and his recently released children’s book.
This interview was conducted on August 21, 2013.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: We recently met at San Diego Comic-Con, where I had the chance to see your scratchboard art cards. When did you begin your work as an artist, and what intrigued you about working in the scratchboard medium?
MG – Oh, I’ve been drawing my entire life. My kindergarten teacher called my parents once, because I was trying to sell the other kids in class Peanuts cartoons I copied out of the Sunday comics (but I managed to sell a few before getting shut down).
After high school I did a couple years of basic art and design classes in college. Then, I applied and was accepted to the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey. After graduating I really kind of lucked into my dream job through a friend and was hired as the solo graphic artist for Heavy Metal magazine in NYC. Right out of school, I just didn’t have the real world experience for a job at that level (how I’d LOVE to get my hands on that job now though!), so that only lasted about 6 months, but it was one of the best experiences and I learned a ton that I’ve carried with me since.
I toyed with scratchboard a bit at The Kubert School, but it wasn’t until much later that I really got into it. I wanted to do a web comic that was a little different from what else was out there. I love the sculptural aspect of scratchboard, taking away as opposed to adding ink or paint to something. The way I use scratchboard is more as a blunt instrument, very wood-cut like. At the size I do my work, you just have to go for it and hope for the best. That idea for a web comic turned into www.MrOblivious.com and nearly 200 comic strips so far.
BD: Are there any characters that you particularly enjoy drawing, or any recommendations that you would suggest to our readers within your art card collection?
MG – I’ve always been a Hulk fan; he works really well in scratchboard, which gives a great texture and bulk to illustrations. Batman’s always a lot of fun to draw, too. Some of the other pieces I’m particularly proud of are the original X-Men, Jabba’s Palace, and Hellboy. I submitted the X-Men piece to the SDCC souvenir book this year, and they used it as the background of the contents page. I was really thrilled to see that. They also used my Tardis and Superman illustrations later on in the book.
BD: Do you take commissions for scratchboard artwork, and, if so, do you offer any specific artwork services to your customers?
MG – I’d be happy to take commissions from people anytime. I really just started doing the scratch art cards this year for the San Diego Comic-Con, so I haven’t done much in the way of commissions yet. It’s nice to be able to offer original art to people since most of what I’ve presented at shows to date has been the digital Story Poster prints. Most of the cards are 30 to 40 dollars, depending on the complexity, and take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to complete. Any cards currently for sale I keep listed on my Etsy site.
BD: You have exhibited at San Diego Comic-Con for eight years. How has your convention experience changed over the years, and in what ways do you feel that the Small Press Pavilion benefits independent creators?
MG – How I present my comic Story Posters is a bit different then a traditional comic. The first couple years people weren’t quite sure what to make of them. It’s been great to see customers come back year after year, and many are now true friends. There’s so much to see at the show, and it’s so hard to get around I’m grateful when someone makes that effort to venture into Small Press.
I think the biggest change happened a couple year ago when my table location shifted from the middle of Small Press to being on an outside corner. It’s increased my visibility tremendously and feels like I started over at that point, in a good way.
There aren’t a lot of opportunities for a one-person operation to be on the same floor with big companies like Marvel and DC. I’ve always said the Small Press Pavilion is the best deal at the show, but, like most things, it takes time to build an audience. I think people need to see you come back for a few years with new work before they invest themselves totally with you. As a freelancer who works from home, it’s also great to get out there and meet other creators, talk about art and comics, and just encourage everyone to make great art.
BD: In addition to your work on scratchboards, you recently released a children’s book called The Spooky Box. What can you tell readers about the story’s premise?
MG – On the surface The Spooky Box is about a small, black box that arrives on your doorstep unexpectedly. What could it be? Maybe it’s filled with treats or maybe it’s a trick? Underneath that it’s about infinite possibilities and how our imaginations can be far greater than the reality. Spoiler Alert: I never tell the reader what’s in the box, but that’s the point. Nothing I can show you is going to be better than what you can think it could be. Everyone’s Spooky Box is different.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MG – Right now I’m working on the next Box book which will be a birthday theme I think. Other than that, I’m already working on the next round of Story Posters for SDCC 2014 and, of course, there will be lots more scratch cards!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about your work?
MG – I’m pretty much all over. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube. It’s probably easiest to go to my main site, www.MarkGonyea.com, where I keep people updated on what’s happening and have links to all the other places I live online.