If the information in this interview works for you, you can back Aaron Lopresti’s Garbage Man on Indiegogo here.
Aaron Lopresti is a name that comic books fans are familiar with. He has been in the industry for quite some time now and in the mid-2000s he provided his detailed, slick and beautiful art to some of Marvel’s most interesting projects at the time, such as Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel (my personal favorite Marvel run of this century) and Greg Pak’s Planet Hulk miniseries, establishing him as one of the most talented artists in the industry. He later moved to DC, where he is currently working, drawing great Wonder Woman/Conan stories and multiple covers.
But Aaron has also decided to revive one of his properties, Garbage Man, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign, which you can back, as part of a personal initiative to break out on his own as a creator. I had the opportunity of speaking with him to acquire his insight on a variety of topics.
Garbage Man by Lopresti. Copyright by Lopresti
Kevin: For those readers that are not familiar with Garbage Man, what can you tell them about him?
Lopresti: I created Garbage Man
about 10 years ago for DC Comics. The original intent was to create a replacement for Swamp Thing in the DC Universe because at the time Vertigo had control of Swamp Thing and wouldn’t give the character back to regular DC. Garbage Man ran through 2 separate mini-series at DC Comics and ended up being a 120-page story. The rights to the character finally were returned to me this past summer and since the entirety of the story was never collected in trade paperback or hardcover, it is something that I wanted to do.
The story itself is about an ambitious lawyer, Morse, who is working for the giant corporation, Titan Pharmaceuticals. When he accidentally uncovers the companies’ illegal dealings, he becomes “expendable”. He is kidnapped and used as a guinea pig for Titan’s human growth project. When the experiment goes wrong, Morse and the lab are destroyed to hide the evidence. But Morse doesn’t die. His chemically enhanced remains mingle with the refuse from Titan’s waste dump and he returns to life as Garbage Man. He fights through an array of monsters while trying to bring Titan to justice and find a cure for his “condition”.
If you had to give our readers a reason to back this book, what would you say?
This is the best artwork I have ever done in comics and for that reason alone I think it is worth getting. The story has depth as well as a lot of classic comic book fun. Even though it is basically a monster/hero book it has a lot of different elements that make it appealing to a wide audience. This is also the only time all of the DC material will be collected in one edition and there is a brand new Garbage Man story in the collection that will only appear here.
The character was originally created for DC, as you pointed out. Can you elaborate on the process of acquiring ownership of the property?
It was originally a creator-owned property. DC paid me a small amount of money that acted as a licensing fee which granted them an open-ended exclusive right to use the character. There was a clause in the contract that stated they had to use the character once every several years and that I had to have first right of refusal to work on the character. DC got Swamp Thing back from Vertigo shortly after Garbage Man came out so they felt they no longer needed the character. It sat around for a while but DC finally gave me the rights back as they determined they were not going to use it anymore. It really wasn’t difficult at all.
Wonder Woman/Conan by Lopresti. Copyright by DC Comics.
As someone who has worked on so many properties such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Planet Hulk... How different is it to have full creative control of a character?
It’s really nice not having to worry about continuity with other characters and having the freedom to tell the story you want. You are also completely responsible for how the story turns out so you get all the praise or all of the criticism. I am completely fine with that, though.
Moving to another subject: As an artist, who were your biggest influences in comics?
I started at a very young age admiring Frank Frazetta, like most artists. As I got older and more into comics Neal Adams and Jim Steranko became huge influences. I also went through stages where I was influenced by Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Starlin, and John Severin. When I was 14 or 15 I became completely enamored with Berni Wrightson and he became the single greatest influence on my style and work. As I got older, I tried to distance my style from his but you can still see the influence especially in my monster art. I am always looking at other artists even today to find ways to improve what I am doing.
What do you think are the aspects that should be talked about more on being a professional artist?
Professionalism. Drawing when you are not “feeling” it. Making yourself work and avoiding distractions. Meeting deadlines and being responsible. A lot of people look at comics as “fine” art but it isn’t. It is commercial art and commercial art always has a sense of responsibility that comes with it. Do great work but do it on time. That is not an easy thing to do.
Garbage Man by Lopresti. Copyright by Lopresti.
And what do you think are the aspects that should be taught a lot more to young artists?
Again, work ethic. Study figure drawing, storytelling, different mediums, and techniques but always with an eye on completing the work in a reasonable amount of time. Don’t be lazy, train yourself to work hard and to sacrifice. There is nothing more challenging than making it in the arts (writing, filmmaking, performance or illustration) and staying relevant once you’ve made it. Hard work and dedication is the only way to survive.
Considering all of the different characters you've worked with... What are the challenges and benefits that come with drawing Garbage Man?
The challenge is writing and drawing a character that fits in a familiar genre without making it a copy of everything that has come before it. I want Garbage Man to capture the feel of classic monster comics of the ’70s without just being a rehash of Swamp Thing. The benefits are the artistic ones. Fantasy and Monster art in comics always seem to me to be inherently more illustrative in nature. The level of detail you can put into the art for this genre seems necessary and expected where sometimes in superhero stories it might seem superfluous. So I really feel like that I can cut loose and do some really beautiful work.
Wonder Woman and Ms. Marvel by Lopresti. Copyright by Marvel Comics.
Being someone with so much experience in the business, what do you think about the current state of the industry?
Same old problems, I’m afraid. Shrinking older audience and no real ideas on how to attract younger readers. The competition with video games, streaming services, movies, and any other interactive media is severe. Comics used to be cheap entertainment for kids with very little competition for their money or attention. You could always count on them buying comics from ages 10-16. Comics now are expensive reading material and most young people don’t want to read. The comic shop model that once saved the industry in the early ’80s may now be responsible for the medium’s lack of growth in readership. If it weren’t for these other mediums and the desperate need for new material comics might be in even more serious trouble.
If this campaign works well for you, are you interested in creating other properties or are you going to carry on with Garbage Man in the future?
Both. I have several other properties that I have developed and ready to go but I just need a successful platform to launch them from. I also have more Garbage Man stories to tell. Ideally, I would like to have a line of books, all part of the same universe but that can only be accomplished one step at a time.
I heard recently that you’re still working at DC. How do you balance working with them and doing your own independent projects?
I work weekends and evenings and occasionally take time off from my DC schedule to fit in the creator-owned projects. It’s a rough schedule but it is the only way to create independent properties without diving in headfirst and risking complete financial failure.
Garbage Man by Lopresti. Copyright by Lopresti.
Overall, what goals do you have for your career in the coming years?
I would like a run on a high profile mainstream book that will grow my visibility and enable me to have an audience large enough to make my independent properties successful. I want to get several of my properties out in the market place in the next five years so that if I fall out of favor with mainstream comics, I will have some other alternatives.
What would you advise to young artists and writers to make it in the industry?
Talent, hard work and determination. You have to have all three. The industry is always looking for young new talent and there are a lot of platforms both digitally and traditionally available to get your work seen. You can’t let failure deter you because almost everyone that has made it has failed at some point in their lives and careers.
Thank you for this opportunity, Aaron. Where can we follow you on social media? Any last message for our readers?
Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview and I hope people will be encouraged to check out my Garbage Man campaign
and follow my upcoming work at DC Comics.