What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
Hunger is a great motivator. Aside from that, anything that stimulates my brain is good.
Do you have a set routine?
Typically, I do my correspondence in the morning. The creative juices don’t usually start flowing until around 2PM, then I’m good to go until midnight. Lately, I’m trying to make it a point to finish by dinner and NOT go back to work unless I’m on deadline.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
Whatever it takes to get the job done. If I’m doing my own finishes, I don’t pencil so tightly and can layout 5 or six pages a day, sometimes more. Finishes take the most time, especially inks, which is why I try not to use up all my creative energy on pencils.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
Music is great when I’m writing. When I’m drawing, I like talking books or movies with a lot of dialogue rather than action that distracts me.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
The first comic artist I learned to recognize by his style was Russ Manning. The guys who turned my focus to comics were Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano on GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
Actually, I was always trying to get into newspaper strips, but nobody was buying action/adventure strips at the time. I met Irv Novick at the New York Comicon in ’73 and he told me to get my carcass up to Julie Schwartz’s office. Until then, working in comic books never occurred to me.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Inking never came easy for me. Still doesn’t, which is why I do most of my work in pencil whenever possible.
What else do you have to learn?
Everything. When you stop learning, you stop growing and begin to stagnate. Back in the ’70’s, Boris Vallejo said, “Art no longer holds any mystery for me, because I have mastered every aspect of it.” That’s one of the saddest statements imaginable.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
Looking at what other artists are doing. When I walk around a convention and see something new, I can’t wait to try it.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
Nope. It’s always in the “on” position.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
Work hard and try to stay ten years ahead of the pack. Learn to use every new tool or system that comes your way, but don’t forget the good old pencil. And you’d better have a fallback plan, because someday when you hit your mid-40s you’ll phone the publisher and have to spell your name TWICE to get past the girl on the switchboard.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Never gonna happen.
How do you handle the slow times?
I fill in with commission work and a pretty busy convention schedule.
How do you feel about the industry?
It’s been good to me, but it suffers from ageism the way it suffered from sexism in the ’70s when a woman were relegated to the role of colorist no matter how great an artist she was.
What would you say is your crowning achievement thus far?
Being at the forefront of the fight for creator’s rights. DC and Marvel never would have paid a penny of royalty if independent creators hadn’t stood our ground.
I’m excited to be doing variant covers for GREEN ARROW after all these years. You can keep up with me on www.mikegrell.com and anyone wishing to commission a special piece of art can do so at www.catskillcomics.com.
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