Originally published July 1998. This is the first of two interviews I did with Jim Valentino. I really enjoyed his Guardians of the Galaxy and his early Shadowhawk at Image. Jim had made an unusual career move of working for Archie Comics. Typically Archie has this weird separate status from the rest of the industry where the writers and artists don’t jump across. It’s only been very recently that this has changed with Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Chip Zardsky, Adam Hughes and others have done work for Archie. Going the other way Dan Parent has started doing work for non-Archie publishers.
Jim Valentino is always been a daring comic professional. From his autobiographical Valentino, to Guardians of the Galaxy, to Shadowhawk, to a Touch of Silver and now to Sonic the Hedgehog he has one of the most diversified portfolios in the industry. Today he talks to us today about his current work, his past, his opinions and the hows and whys of the industry.
Jamie: Why are you doing Sonic the Hedgehog?
Jim Valentino: My 11 year old son, Joel is a big Sonic fan. I started talking to Ken Penders, one thing led to another and here we are. I’m doing it because it’s a lot of fun for me. I’ve never done funny animals before and am having a blast with it.
Jamie: What are you doing on Sonic – writing, drawing or both?
Jim Valentino: I’m penciling it. Ken Penders is writing and inking it.
Jamie: What will be your first Sonic issue and when will it be out?
Jim Valentino: It’s a Sonic Super-Special (#8, I believe) and it’ll be out in October or November. I have just agreed to pencil a three issue run on Knuckles (#’s 22-24, I believe), also from Ken’s scripts.
Jamie: In the past you’ve said you’ve been influenced by Jack Kirby and Robert Crumb. Who’s influence takes over when your doing Sonic?
Jim Valentino: Influences, for me, usually mean a point of inspiration as opposed to emulation. I am influenced by literally hundreds of artists. In the case of Sonic, I have model sheets that I go by. I tend to look at a lot of Spaz’s work–I think he’s absolutely brilliant.
Jamie: Do you think you can get typical superhero readers to try Sonic?
Jim Valentino: Hopefully, I think they’d be pleasantly surprised by it. There is a lot of sophistication in the stories and the continuity. But, conversely, I see it as a way to get the younger Sonic reader into super-hero comics.
Jamie: For those who’ve never read Sonic before, can you give us a list of the main characters and a little bit about them?
Jim Valentino: I believe this question would be better suited to Ken Penders, he’s the writer and has been for a few years now.
Jamie: How long do you think you’ll be doing Sonic?
Jim Valentino: I’m just signed on for this one special. Although Ken and I have had so much fun working on it that we’ve discussed the possibility of doing another.
Jamie: Will you be doing any other work besides Sonic?
Jim Valentino: Yes, in all likelihood, although I can’t say what at this time.
Jamie: Would you do anything different if you launched The Silverline today?
Jim Valentino: There may have been one or two books that I wouldn’t have signed on (no, I will not say which). Other than that, no, I don’t think so.
Jamie: Will you give The Silverline another chance if the industry improves?
Jim Valentino: I hadn’t considered the question before. I tend to look forward rather than behind, but I can’t say at this point. Perhaps.
Jamie: If you were in control of the comic industry, how would you get more people reading comic books?
Jim Valentino: Fewer continued stories for one thing. More accessible continuity. You shouldn’t need to be familiar with thirty years of history to understand a character or the situation he’s in. I’d make retail outlets more “family friendly”–that is, get the posters of half naked women and demonic imagery out of the store windows, put in characters that are familiar to the general populace (Garfield, Dilbert, Archie, etc…)
With printing and publication costs being what they are there is no way to lower the unit price, therefore it seems to me that you have to give the reader a full story within the book he’s buying–and you have to give the consumer a friendly atmosphere to purchase it in. We are sorely lacking in both these areas today.
Jamie: What kind of pencil(s) do you use and why?
Jim Valentino: I use Col-Erase light blue pencils to do my underdrawing because, as the name implies, they can be erased! And I just use a regular standard #2 pencil to draw with, probably because it’s just familiar and feels right in my hands.
Jamie: Do you listen to any music when your drawing? If so what bands?
Jim Valentino: Hardly ever. I usually watch TV when I’m penciling. I never listen to music or TV when I’m writing. If I listen to any music at all when I’m working it’s usually movie soundtracks, the instrumental kind. This is because of the heroic crescendos inherent in them–almost like a Wagner opera–very inspirational. I save the bands for when I’m driving.
Jamie: How do you think your art has improved over the years?
Jim Valentino: I think I’ve gotten better, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for an artist to make a self-evaluation like that. I am continually trying to improve my work and I am always studying.
Jamie: Out of all the characters you’ve drawn over the years, which were the most fun?
Jim Valentino: Each was fun as I was doing them. I loved doing them all. If I had to choose, I couldn’t. They all satisfied different parts of me.
Jamie: You have done both mainstream and “alternative” work. Which of the two do you prefer?
Jim Valentino: Like the answer above, I don’t deal in “favorites”–I tend to enjoy whatever it is I’m working on at the moment. There is a great satisfaction in presenting a more “serious” piece like, A Touch of Silver, but, conversely, it is also fun to play with more iconal creations (such as you’d find at Marvel or DC) again, both fill a niche in the creative process.
Jamie: What is the current status of Altered Image?
Jim Valentino: I’m working on the third and final issue right now.
Jamie: I hear your a big Avengers fan, what do you think of the Busiek/Perez issues?
Jim Valentino: Absolutely exquisite! I’m a big fan and a personal friend of both George and Kurt’s, so I may be a bit prejudiced in my assessment, but I am greatly enjoying their work on the title.
Jamie: Is there any other comic work from you we will be seeing?
Jim Valentino: Save for that mentioned above, there is nothing solid. I have about three or four projects that I’m considering at this point, I am uncertain which of these I’ll actually get to first. The ones we’re sure of at this time are Altered Image, The Sonic Super-Special and Knuckles #22-24. What comes after that only time will tell…and that’s just the way I like it! Every day is an adventure when the future holds so many options and possibilities!