First Comics News: Mick, you’re primarily known for your working at DC and Marvel. But you broke in at Slave Labor Graphics, how did you get your first job?
Mick Gray: I got into comics in around 1989 by showing my technical illustration portfolio to Dan Vado at Slave Labor Graphics. My best friend told Dan he knew an artist who could help him out with backgrounds on one of his early books, Hero Sandwich. After that, I worked with him on The Griffin and Bloodlust. When The Griffin was sold to DC Comics that was my “in” to mainstream comic work. From there I apprenticed with Mark Mckenna, Chuck Austen, Frank Cirrocco, Randy Emberlin and Ian Akin. My first full inks on an issue was on the Jack Kirby co-created book,Phantom Force, with Michael Thibodeaux.
1st: Jumping to the present, what brought you to The Shield?
Mick: I had been inking Marco Rudy on the DC Final Crisis book Escape for a few issues when DC asked me if I would be willing to drop that project and move, with Marco, over to a new ongoing series. I had not inked a regular series since Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes a few years back with Barry Kitson. I have enjoyed jumping around working with different artists on many great characters, but a regular series sounded really swell to me!
1st: Had you been a fan of the Shield prior to getting the assignment?
Mick: I am now just discovering this character! I was surprised to find out he was around like a year before Captain America!
1st: You are inking Marco Rudy’s pencils on this series. You have worked with some of the biggest names in comics. How does Marco’s pencil work on the Shield stack up against other pros you have worked with?
Mick: Working with Marco on Escape has been a treat. He is pretty new to the biz but I see his work improving leaps and bounds with each page I see. He is very good at dramatic page layout, which I think is what makes a comic! J.H. Williams III spoiled me with that kind of stuff! I really look for an artist that can make a powerful statement with page layout and storytelling. As of this moment I have not seen anything other than one character design for the book but I know Marco is going to kick butt on The Shield!
1st: In this series you have a colorful super hero set against tanks and the desert. How do you ink the pages to get the desert feel while still leaving the hero light enough to be colorful?
Mick: Wow! That’s a tough question! I just follow the lead of the penciller! My philosophy of inking is to “capture” the pencillers style. I never want to lose the look he is trying to get across. A penciller puts so much time into his work I never want to cover any of that up. So yeah, cool texture on the desert stuff and powerful line work on The Shield… that should work!
1st: As the inker do they give you copies of Eric Trautmann’s scripts to reference or do they just give you Marco’s art and have you ink it without a script?
Mick: I’m from the old school days of when the pages were hand lettered BEFORE I inked them! So I would read the story as I worked on them! I miss that so much. Now I REALLY need to get script and read it before I do my job. It is very important for me to know what the writer and penciller are trying to get across before I accidentally ink an expression with the wrong emotion in mind! In the old days I NEVER read scripts!
1st: Do you ink with pen and brush or do you digitally ink the pages?
Mick: I am totally a brush guy. I use a little quill for texture and lots of technical pens on “techy” stuff like cars, robots, building, etc. But I’m like 80% brush. But I do go crazy with sponges and splatter at times when called for. I have not EVEN broken out a tablet to try digital inking as of yet… but I think it is in my future to play with!
1st: What else are you working on?
Mick: I am in the process of self-publishing my first children’s book, Al B. Mouse’s Abecedarium.
1st: Who is Al B. Mouse?
Mick: Al B. Mouse is a character I first started drawing over 20 years ago! He is me “mouse-sonified”!
I’ve been drawing him in people’s sketchbooks at conventions for all these years and decided that this was the year to finally make a book featuring him.
1st: Why do an alphabet book?
Mick: The ABC book idea came to me as I realized that I had a good 10 or 15 illustrations of him ready to go already and I thought, “Wow! I only need another 11 drawings and I have an ABC book!” So I wrote the entire book in about two hours with the help of my 8 year old daughter!
1st: Who do you see as the potential customer for this book?
Mick: People who like cartoon mice? People who like mice with my personality? People who like me? People who like horned-rim glasses? People who like hard bound, dust-jacketed children’s books? People who like my daughter? People who like silly poems? People who like my wife? People who I sketched Al B. in their sketchbooks 20 years ago who have been waiting patiently for me to get off my lazy butt and make this bloody book ALREADY!?!?!…..sorry….
1st: Where can fans find a copy?
Mick: San Diego Comic Con in July will be the PREMIERE of the book. We will have a small press table and I’ll also have my regular artist alley table (where I’ll hopefully be showing of samples of the new Shield pages!). There will be special giveaways, a limited free exclusive button, and a verycool exclusive useless 4 button pack for sale… I say useless because it should never be opened because it will destroy the integrity of the package design! Fans dig that kind of thing…I think. After San Diego you can get one at my website which is www.mickgray.net