Phil Jimenez has been in the comics business for a long time, and he’ll probably be one to tell you that he’s very lucky to have his job of choice. Having put in his time, he’s now capitalizing on his tenure, and choosing which projects he’s drawing based on the “fun” factor, meaning passing the Phil Jimenez litmus test is part of the selection process. What catches his eye the most? One of those ideas that made the cut was IDW’s Transformers: Dark Cybertron (SEP130332), and in this interview Phil talks about what the gig entailed, and how he “just dropped in” for a bit.
PREVIEWSworld: Given your long tenure as an artist in the comic industry, what is it about drawing Transformers that you find attractive as an illustrator? Does it do something to your brain when you find yourself focusing more on metal rather than flesh? Or was it the concept of Dark Cybertron that made you sit up in class and hold your hand up? How did Phil Jimenez get on board this project?
Phil Jimenez: Fun. As I get older, that’s the “buzzword” for me, re: why I choose assignments. Fun. What we do is sort of ridiculous in the big picture (certainly, we’re not searching for a cure for cancer), and so my goal is to choose assignments that will be fun to read, fun to draw, and on characters to which I have some sort of attachment, especially from my childhood.
And after I tried pitching a JLA/Transformers crossover, I realized just how much fun these characters were to draw, how rich the tapestry of their history was, how many wonderful characters there were, scatted among the Autobots and Decepticons, and was invited by IDW and Hasbro to contribute more. I guess I did okay with my JLA/ Transformers samples; I “got” the Transformers enough to be hired to draw more.
I actually don’t think drawing Transformers is any different from drawing anything else; I still use the same rules and tools, and still think about character in the same way. That said, the Transformers have different shapes and edges that *do* effect composition, but mostly in a fun, challenging way.
PREVIEWSworld: How do you prepare to bring visuals to life based on James Roberts and John Barber’s script? Do you have particular references you find essential? Or is there no bible? I’m curious to know what you think about Transformers character designs. Should they remain untouched versus what could be open to interpretation? Look at how Superman once had a blue and white costume. Are any of these creative liberties ever considered, or do you take a more conservative approach towards rendering these titans?
Phil Jimenez: I have to say, the script — written in old Marvel plot style — was perfect. Great pacing, great fun. Since I was only doing loose breakdowns, what I was really worried about were the storybeats and sequential storytelling. I knew the intimate details of the world would be filled in by Andrew, the actual penciller on the book.
And because my contribution was so relatively minor, I don’t feel like I’m there to make wholesale changes on the stuff. I’m there to do my best to bring this pre-existing material to “life” and to make them “read” properly to their thousands of fans. I already feel like a bit of an interloper, just “dropping in” for a bit. I don’t wanna muck with the character designs too much if I’m just visiting, you know?
PREVIEWSworld: How does the artwork convey the tone and atmosphere of Dark Cybertron? Did you find yourself having to do more than one draft to get where you wanted to be in your layouts?
Phil Jimenez: There were a couple of pages that I worked and reworked layouts; and, of course, the inevitable moment when I totally reconfigured a two page spread but discovered the penciller had already finished working over the original designs. GAH! I hate that. Still, the script was so strong the visuals were all there for me; I just had to figure out how to compose them.
PREVIEWSworld: Describe your work relationship with fellow artists Andrew Griffith and Brendan Cahill. Have you worked together before this team? What is it about the synergy that’s to your liking? How do the three of you communicate during the creative process?
Phil Jimenez: I drew these layouts and Andrew finished them. They’re awesome. I have no idea if he had any fun, but I hope he did. The stuff looks amazing!
PREVIEWSworld: If fans want to reach out to you to comment about the book, is there a Facebook or Twitter page they can find to drop you a line?
Phil Jimenez: Philjimeneznyc@twitter and @facebook.