The former inker of Daredevil during the Karl Kesel/Cary Nord issues discusses his Marvel work and his new career with CrossGen Comics.
Kuljit Mithra: Can you give a brief bio on yourself and how you eventually got into the comics business?
Matt Ryan: I've been interested in drawing for as long as I can remember. My early influnces were Saturday morning cartoons and newspaper comic strips. Later, a friend of mine in junior high school got me interested in comic books. When I went on to high school, I got into a drawing class with a great art teacher. She became interested in comics as an art form and really backed me up in my dream of drawing comic books. She gave me a brochure on a workshop that the Joe Kubert school of art was doing, which I attended. Upon graduating high school, I enrolled at the Joe Kubert school and graduated from the three year course. At the end of my third year, Mark Pennington was leaving the X-Men book as inker. Andy Kubert, who was pencilling X-Men at the time and worked in his studio in the basement of the Kubert school, decided to give some third year students a shot at doing some samples. Andy felt that I had some potential, so he worked with me to improve my inks. I studied pages that he showed me of Penningtons inks, as well as other inkers that had worked with Andy. After some practicing and doing many samples, the word came down from [editor-in-chief] Bob Harras that I was the new inker for the book. It was a dream come true for me. Not only was I getting a chance to work in the comic book industry, but on a book as popular as the X-Men too!
Mithra:What were some of your projects before inking over Cary Nord on Daredevil?
Ryan: Before I actually started work on the X-Men, Joey Cavelieri gave me a chance to pencil a short story for 2099 Unlimited. The story was about a character called Galahad 2099 and was a lot of fun for me. I had complete freedom to create all of the characters for the story. The artwork looks horrible to me now, but I guess that's always the way it is with your first work.
Then I was inker on X-Men for over 2 years. This was a great opportunity for me which led to getting many other jobs. It seems like I was always helping out with inks on other books. Most of the time it was just a couple of pages here and there, but it gave me a great chance to work with a lot of different artists with different styles. I was also given a chance to pencil and ink 3 covers for Classic X-Men.
After leaving the X-Men, I went back to doing pencils. I did a Cable X-Force Annual, featuring the Impossible Man, which was a blast for me. Then I went on to take over as penciller of Fantastic Four 2099, which gave me a chance to work with Joey Cavelieri once again.
Mithra: How did the DD inking job come about for you?
Ryan: It actually came about through my pencilling job on FF2099. James Felder came on to replace Joey Cavelieri as editor of FF2099. James, soon thereafter, politely notified me that I was no longer going to be the penciller of the book. This was hard to take for me, because I really wanted to get a shot at getting a pencilling career going. James was familiar with my inking work with the X-Men and so offered me the job as inker of FF2099. I turned down his offer, in hopes that I could get some other pencilling work. About a week later, James called me again, but this time to offer me a job as inker of Daredevil. I still had my mind set on pencilling, but he convinced me to just take a look at some samples of Cary Nord's pencils, and see if I might be interested. I had pretty much made up my mind that if I didn't like the pencils (I was not familiar with Cary's work at the time) that I would not take the job. When I saw the samples of Cary's art, I felt right away that it was a style that I would have a lot of fun inking. And so, I took the job and I was back to inking.
Mithra: How was it working with Nord? I'm guessing since he works from his home in Canada, you mostly had contact over the phone (if at all)?
Ryan: Yes, we did all of our talking over the phone. I wouldn't say that we talked a great deal over the phone, but definitely more than some jobs that I've had. I mean, I've had plenty of jobs in which I never spoke to the penciller at all! I felt very comfortable working with Cary, though. He was very open and honest about things that he did or didn't like in my inks, yet he didn't constrict me so much that I couldn't express myself in the art. He's a really nice guy, and it was a pleasure working with him. I always thought it would be fun to work with him again after Daredevil.
Mithra: Looking over your inking on Daredevil, it seemed to me that you were going for a finer line with Nord's pencils. Almost like an outline, but with some patches of shadows. The 'civilian' panels were thin lines, while the 'hero' panels were thicker lines, more shadows, etc. Was this done on purpose? Did you use this kind of technique on other titles before this, or do you suit the inks for particular artists?
Ryan: Well, it would be nice to say that I did it on purpose, but to tell you the truth I never really noticed it. I definitely think that an inker has to suit his style to the penciller. Cary's artwork had much more dramatic lighting and heavy blacks than many of the other artists that I had worked with. Some pencillers are very conscious of the line thickness, while others leave that decision up to the inker. I seem to remember Cary being a penciller who clearly defined the line weight in his drawings, so I'm sure that much of it was just due to his style. I think that it is also much easier and more appropriate to use very bold linework on the more dramatic hero panels, as opposed to the more conservative civilian panels. As for the shadows, that was all Cary's doing. He is excellent at creating dramatic lighting and shadows. That is one of the things that really made me want to take the job inking his art.
Mithra: What did you think were some of Nord's strengths on the title?
Ryan: As I mentioned, I think that he is just incredible at creating moody lighting and shadows, which I think worked very well with this character. Another thing that I think he does really well is drawing very realistic looking characters. He is very good at drawing realistic faces, expressions, character poses and backgrounds, all of which are important to doing more natural type non-heroic scenes which were key to a book like this. He handled it very well. Then, add on top of that the fact that he draws some awesome hero and action pages, and you've got a perfect artist for this book.
Mithra: While you did spend most of your time on DD inking Cary Nord, you also did the '-1' issue over Gene Colan. How was it inking Colan's issue when compared to Nord?
Ryan: Inking over Gene's pencils was a lot of fun. When I first saw the pages, I thought to myself "How am I going to ink this?". Gene's style leaves a bit more interpretation to the inker than Cary's pencils did. When I actually started inking it though, it came very naturally to me. It allowed me a chance to really loosen up a bit and get very bold in some of my line work. It is really incredible when you get a chance to work with someone that you never imagined you would get the opportunity to work with. Working over an artist of his vast experience really helped me to improve my own artwork.
Mithra: Which DD issue of yours do you think worked really well in all capacities (writing, art etc.) Did you enjoy the Mr. Hyde and Mr. Fear storylines?
Ryan: Well, it's been quite a while since I worked on the book, so it's hard to remember. In terms of the storylines, I hate to say that I never read any of the issues. That sounds terrible, but it's true. I hardly ever read anything that I inked. As for the artwork, though, I really enjoyed the Mr. Hyde issues. I definitely remember him as a fun character to ink and I think Cary was really putting forth some incredible work on those issues.
Mithra: Were you involved with any storyline ideas or plots etc.? Did you get to work with Karl Kesel or Joe Kelly at all?
Ryan: I had zero input on the storylines. That's probably a good thing, though. I'm really not much of a writer. Inkers usually don't get that involved in storylines and plot ideas. I leave that all up to the writers. It's amazing how much those guys know about the history of comics and the characters. I wouldn't even know where to begin in suggesting any plot ideas.
Mithra: I believe once Gene Colan became the regular artist on DD, Cary Nord and yourself left the title. What did you work on after DD? You didn't want to continue inking DD with Colan?
Ryan: It would have been great to ink Gene Colan, and I honestly can't remember if they even wanted to keep me on as inker, but I decided to take some time off, anyway. I had gotten the urge to take another shot at trying to land some pencilling work, so I thought I would take some time to practice on my own artwork. Several months later (as bills began stacking up), I decided to get back into inking when I was offered a job on the Silver Surfer, where I was mostly working over Tom Grummett's pencils. Later, I inked some Batman Legends of the Dark Knight issues over Sergio Cariello's pencils.
Mithra: I got in contact with you through CrossGen Comics, because you've signed a contract to work with them. Can you explain how and why you came to this decision? What is it about CrossGen that you think made the decision for you?
Ryan: The decision for me was really easy. Neither Marvel or DC were giving me any work, and here was a company that wanted to hire me on as a salaried employee. Simple choice. I felt honored that CrossGen thought highly enough of my work to consider me for the job, and it really means a lot to me to be a part of this company. It is also nice to feel like you have some job security for a change. I definitely don't miss the freelance lifestyle of always wondering what book your going to be working on next month and how long they'll keep you on. I'm very happy to be working at CrossGen. It is a great company and I think it will have a great impact on comics, not only through the quality of books that they put out to the reader, but also on the way the entire industry is run. Having the entire creative team together in one building really improves the quality of the product being put out, and I believe that CrossGen is putting out the best books on the comic shelves today. After meeting with Mark Alessi, the publisher and CEO of CrossGen, I had full confidence in the company. Mark is a business genius, and now he is applying that genius to the comic book industry. It's great to be working for someone with his kind of dreams and visions for this industry, and someone who really cares about the future of comic books.
Mithra: Have you already relocated to Florida? Was that a major concern for you?
Ryan: Yes, I have already relocated to Florida. It wasn't really a major concern for me. When CrossGen first contacted me, I have to admit that I wasn't very familiar with a lot of the details about the company. When they told me I would have to move to Florida for the job, I immediately knew that this wasn't your average comic book company. I realized that something special was going on here. Something very big for the comic industry. I was all too happy to pack up and move. Florida is very nice. The weather is nice. It's like being on a permanent vacation (Well, if it wasn't for all those endless hours of work!)
Mithra: Are you finding the closer contact with your writing/art team beneficial?
Ryan: Yes, very much so. It's so much easier to talk with the penciller and really find out how he wants you to ink his work. When you are working as a freelance artist, oftentimes the penciller might not get a chance to see the inks for some time after you've done them, and sometimes not even until the book is put out. Working at Crossgen, it is much easier to talk over each page with the penciller to try and make it the best page possible.
Mithra: And finally, what title(s) will you be working on, and when will your first issue(s) come out?
Ryan: The title that I'll be working on is Mystic. I will be inking over Fabrizio Fiorentino's pencils. Our first issue was #17 which hit the comic book shelves in October. Brandon Peterson returns to do issues 18 through 20, and then me and Fabrizio take over as the regular art team on issue #21.
(c) Kuljit Mithra 2001
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
Jose Guns Alves
Black and White
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