“I’m a ham!” Greg Capullo proudly declared in the green room of Fan Expo a few weeks back. “When Dan [DiDio] and I do these things, he just knows to just give me the microphone and let me go!” He says with a chuckle.
It’s true. As the moderator of Greg Capullo’s panel at Fan Expo this month, it was a real joy to see Greg work the crowd in his own inimitable fashion.
Greg Capullo is a powerhouse artist – his talent speaks for itself, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of having a good time with the legion of fans who have come out to see him. If there’s any way to describe this guy’s personality, it would include the words good-natured, amiable and infectiously excitable. His talent doesn’t inflate his ego and he’s a real pleasure for the fans to meet. In fact, this is a guy who isn’t in a rush to get out of the room and tries to give his fans as much of a Capullo experience as he can give them.
But it’s the guy’s work ethic that really stands out. When you look at the amount of accolades this guy can add to his resume, it’s an astonishing sum of complete work. Greg is obviously the hottest Batman artist out there right now but he has an 80-issue run on Image Comics’ Spawn, his own comic through Image, The Creech and was the lead character design artist for Blizzard Entertainment. This guy has a lot to be proud of but doesn’t let it get to his head.
“Don’t forget the album covers!” He adds to the list, to the delight of the fans in the audience.
The career is immense and what’s really fascinating is that he’s a self-taught artist.
“Yeah, it’s a good thing I can draw, kids. You know I got in trouble for this, but I wasn’t a very good student in school. But you know, it all worked out. I knew I wanted to be a comic book artist when I was eight years old. I had the spark and I started in parochial school. Nuns are tough and they keep you in line, so when I went to public school and by the time I got into junior high and girls and guitars, forget about it! I wound up drawing Captain America on the backs of my math books … but I couldn’t stop drawing! Even jobs – all would do was draw. It’s the one thing through all my life that I couldn’t stop doing. It all worked out.”
When asked where the talent came from, Capullo answered with a smile.
“Well, my mother could draw a little – and her sister. I have a distinct memory of my aunt sitting at the kitchen table – she was a beautician and she could do drawings of female faces and profiles. My aunt could just whip these beautiful women’s profiles out and to this day, I still try to do what she did at that kitchen table and I still can’t pull it off as good as her. It’s in the gene pool!”
The professional influences in Capullo’s life are an eclectic mixture as well. Capullo would look at MAD Magazine, watch cartoons and all sort of superhero books.
“There was one guy in MAD magazine – Mort Drucker – who did all the movie satires back then and this guy was just a beast. It was caricature work, right? So it looked realistic … it looked phenomenal. So, that guy was one of the guys who turned me on. But in the superhero comics, it had to be John Buscema. He was THE GUY who made me want to draw comics, you know what I mean? With the cartoons – it had to be Chuck Jones. I mean, that guy was the master. Emotions, body language – that had to be my holy trinity.”
If there was a holy trinity of creators, when it came to worshipping at the Church of Batman, his chief influence there had to be “Father Neal Adams” as the main guiding light.
“Neal is a beast. Me and my friends who could draw, we were totally blown away by Neal. The guy had serious chops. He was definitely my first Batman guy, and then like, Aparo.”
When the subject turned to which story arcs really stood out in his mind, Capullo had a hard time with that question.
“You haven’t worked in comics … it’s a sweat shop! Sometimes you really can’t keep track of the stories. The pace, the workload – it just goes on and on and on. You don’t have time to reflect on things that you’ve done sometimes. I know drawing-wise, one that was fun for me was “Death of the Family” – and I’ve heard how successful our run had gone, but here’s a funny ‘behind-the-scenes’ story for you. You know I drew Spawn for a while, right? That’s a dark, scary story. Well, Scott Snyder would call me up every now and then and he’d apologize, saying ‘Oh Greg, I’m really sorry that I have to take you down such a dark and oppressive story-line; I’m sorry for what I’m putting you through – that I have to put you in such a dark place – I’m sorry.’ Well, I’m like: ‘this is great! This is like comfortable robe and slippers territory! I’m loving every second of this! I’m dancing! I mean, like, fish-hooks in skin? Hey let’s put some flies on that rotting flesh! I’m having a great time and poor Scott’s on the couch, right? That was a lot of fun.”
Capullo had a revealing insight in commenting on the nature of his collaboration with Scott Snyder.
“It’s crazy, y’know? I mean, it’s nothing you can plan for, like putting a boy-band together. Oooh – I can sing and dance and I’ve got a cute butt! (Laughter), but it doesn’t work like that. We were put together – Bob Harras was my editor back in my X-Force days, he was the one that said that these guys would be great together and I guess he was right, even though we were ready to kill each other in the beginning! We’re great friends now, but you never know how things are going to turn out – it’s an intangible thing but we’re just fortunate that lightning struck for us. We’re insanely grateful and I pinch myself every day. I was at a bar with Greg Land and I said that all I ever wanted to do was draw and that I’d never have seen myself signing books or at a panel with people listening to me talk! You’re telling me that it was like a historic thing, and when I’m old, I guess I’ll look back and see that, but for now, I’m just doing my job, you know?”
It’s the humility that really stands out when you talk to this guy. The man has created such incredible pieces of art that you have to wonder what was going through the mind of this gifted artist when he calmly recounts that he was “just doing his job”. In fact, when asked about what his dream team of creators would be, his response was:
“I can’t answer that. I’d have to interview them all first. I mean, if I don’t know what their work ethic is, I can’t support them. I’d rather have lesser talent than work ethic because talent grows, right? But to me, the most important thing is how hard will they work?”
Of course, speaking about work, Capullo remarked that he loved working from home.
“My office is in my house. This way, my kids can see me, my wife can see me – I mean, I work long days and they’d never get to see me if I didn’t get to work from home. I can’t live without my wife; she comes to all my shows and this way, I get to kiss her whenever I can.”
Greg Capullo is more than an artist – he’s a true man of the people. His talent is truly phenomenal and his admission that he is self-trained, it’s clear that he’s a natural prodigy; but it’s the fact that his values stand out even more. He’s a family man, but he’s also a straight-forward honest guy who’ll tell you how things are but there’s absolutely no ego in any of his claims.
For example, when asked about pricing commissions, he responded by saying that perhaps the reason why he doesn’t really price art – prices it very high – is because he doesn’t want to sell it.
“It’s terrible when you give someone something that is a part of you and they want to flip it – that hurts so much. When someone wants to profit off that, that’s one of the most painful things. The hardest thing to do is to price your own art.”
This is a guy who can field questions from journalists, fans and young children with an equal amount of respect. When asked by a young girl what the best part of his career is and what the best art he’d ever done was, he responded with so much care and thought.
“The best part of my career is that I have one. My best work is the work I’m about to do, because sweetheart, that’s the way that you need to approach life. You go up the ladder and never down it. Look, I’m definitely not a bible guy, but there’s a verse that I heard that’s stuck with me and it’s how I live my life: whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might.”
That’s Greg Capullo.
He’s a hard-working, value-loving, family guy with a considerable artistic gift. He’s not a pretentious, cultural elitist – he’s a guy who realised his childhood ambition and is drawing for a living. He’s grateful for his career and the freedom it affords to enjoy his wife and children. He’s a straight-shooter with a code of ethics and he’s a guy I’d love to share a beer with and just listen to him talk about anything.
This is a man of the fans … and I’m honoured to have sat with him and listened to him talk.