Interview with Cliff Chiang

Just like the ads say, MySpace really is a place for friends. To keep in touch with old ones, make new ones and to then bug some of them for interviews. This of course brings us to our new friend and incredibly talented artist Cliff Chiang, who was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule for this interview.

Brian - Do you remember what your introduction to comics was and when you decided that you wanted to work in the industry?

Cliff - I knew about comics, but didn’t really follow them until my older brother started buying them. Mostly Marvel stuff: X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. We were really into it for a few years but stopped reading when it got harder to track down issues after things went to the direct market system. I got back into comics in college, after reading Sandman and Hellblazer, and that’s when I realized that maybe comics could be a career for me.

BE - You began as an editor right? How did you get your start in that role?

CC - After graduating college, I worked with Heidi Macdonald as an assistant editor for Disney Adventures Magazine, helping out with their comics section. It wasn’t a full time position, so I was always looking for something more concrete. Luckily, an assistant editor spot opened up at Vertigo, which was my number one choice.

 BE - How did you make the transition from working editor to working artist?

 CC - With difficulty! From the beginning I always wanted to draw comic, but I wasn’t good enough when I started working in editorial. I worked at DC during the day, and worked on drawing at night. After a few years on the job, I came to realize that if I ever was going to be an artist, I had to commit to it fully.

BE - You ink all of your own work correct? Why is that an important part of the process for you?

CC - For me, inking IS the drawing. I have never penciled tightly, especially since there are certain things you can do with a brush that you can’t indicate with a pencil. So I always focused on inking as a finishing process, really trying to keep them spontaneous and interesting as opposed to trying to slavishly replicate my pencil work. These days, with Photoshop and scanners being as great as they are, it’s not so important to have sharp black and white line work, but it’s something that I love.

BE - You also color some of your own work as well, how much of your own coloring do you do?

CC - Mainly just my covers. I’d like to do more of it, as it’s part of a complete package that I like to present, but it’s a lot of work. I will be doing a 2-page piece for Countdown, but nothing more extensive than that.

BE – Is there any part of that process; penciling, inking and coloring that is the least fun or meaningful for you to do yourself?

CC - That’s a tough one. I think they all address different parts of the puzzle, and each stage has a certain amount of drudgery to it. So I guess they’re equally un-enjoyable and meaningless, but I find the whole process to be fun and satisfying in the end. Does that make sense?

BE - On your resume you have editor, artist, inker, colorist…is the dream project to add writer and letter and do a complete comic yourself?

CC - Absolutely. I’ve had the privilege of working with some really tremendous writers, but there’s always part of me that wants to explore my own stories and style of storytelling.

BE - You’ll be a guest this year at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC and it will be your fourth straight visit. Can you give us some of your thoughts on why you keep coming back to Heroes and what makes it such a good experience for you?

CC - HeroesCon is a great show. While I love the multimedia circus of San Diego, Heroes is much more intimate and comics-centric. The fans are super friendly and polite, and I’ve made some great friends there. Being a cynical New Yorker, I sometimes have a hard time believing how nice the Heroes staff is! Shelton Drum and Dustin Harbin are the best cheerleaders for comics out there.

BE - When you hit the convention circuit and mingle with fans, what do you find them commenting on most about your work? What character do you get asked to sketch the most?

CC - It’s funny, I guess when people talk to me at convention, they’re not necessarily specific about why they like my work. I’ll have to ask them! I do get asked for Batman a lot, which is both easy and difficult. Easy because it’s practically in my blood now, but hard because you don’t want to repeat yourself (or anyone else!). It’s hard to do new things with such classic characters.

BE - Is there a particular character or story style that is your favorite to work on?

CC - Not really. I just like stories that have some meat to them, a real emotional core that you can relate to.

BE - What current projects are you working on? Anything you can tell us about future projects?

CC - I’ve just finished up my run on Green Arrow & Black Canary, and soon I’ll be working on a new book for Vertigo.

Brian – Thanks again for the interview, where can everybody find you and your work on the web?

Cliff - Why, of course!