Recently, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Armand Villavert, Jr., the artist and co-creator of a comic called Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, through email. From artist to artist, it has been an interesting experience learning about their comic as well as the time and passion that they have spent over the years making it a reality.
A: First off, I’d like to ask what your role is in the making of Gladstone’s. How’d you get involved in it in the first place?
AVJ: I got involved with Gladstone’s after Mark Smith contacted me about 5 years ago wanting to work with me on a project. He had a general idea of the story so we talked and flushed out more of the characters. With me sending him designs and drawings which in turn helped him give depth into the characters. Gladstone’s has been almost 7 years in the making.
A: For those who don’t know, what is Gladstone’s about? What makes it different from your average superhero comic?
AVJ: Gladstone’s School for World conquerors is about a school that caters to supervillainry and the kids of supervillains. The school teaches classes from Death Ray building to Evil Monologue. The story and the feel of the book is very much like Teen Titans. The kids are supervillains but not in the sense that they’re out to kill and destroy humans. It’s more of a tongue in cheek, Saturday morning cartoon type of villainy.
A: Are there any challenges that come from writing in the villain’s perspective instead of the usual superhero?
AVJ: It has been a lot of fun seeing things in the villains perspective. Superheros have a sense of doing good and saving the world. The fact that our characters have the opposite mentality is a little refreshing when it comes to drawing creating the story. Our characters are still honorable and have a sense of decency but they have a little more fun since they’re not so tied down with righteousness. Haha
A: How was the idea born to create this story? It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before– and that’s an accomplishment in itself, to create something original in this day and age.
AVJ: The main idea was Mark Smith’s. He had the concept and the main plot points of where the story was gonna go. When I joined in we had no real solid characters yet, just a few cool names to work from. He gave me a short list of character names and I took it and made designs from it. For example he had Ghost Girl, and Mummy Girl written down but that was all. We didn’t have any clue what powers they would have or what they looked like. When I sat down and designed them that was when we started to get the feel for what they were going to act like and their powers. Ghost Girl for example had a very spacey look to her so she became a very carefree and almost airhead like character, haha. Being a Ghost though it fit her perfectly since she really wouldn’t fear death or physical harm. Mummy Girl had bandages around her and that became her source of power. Kid of like Doctor Octopus where she would use it as extensions of her own legs and arms.
A: What’s your muse, as an artist?
AVJ: My greatest muse as an artist is to one day just make a name for myself in the comic industry. I want to be remembered and have people look back and see a library of comics that I’ve done in my life. I don’t care if I’m rich, to be honest. I just want to be happy drawing comics and giving fans of my work what they ask for until I’m DEAD!!! haha
A: What advice would you give for anyone aspiring to create their own comic book? What should they know before going into that field?
AVJ: My advice to anyone who’s trying to be a comic artist is to always keep learning. Always improve and strive to perfect your art. Learn from comics and artists that inspire you and don’t close yourself out to other genres and other art styles. If you like American Comics and have no interest in Manga then try to find a manga or Anime that you would like. The same thing for those who only read Manga and not American Comics. It’s foolish to close yourself out to the many different and gorgeous art out there.
A: Well said. What comic books did you follow as a child? Did any of them provide inspiration for Gladstone’s?
AVJ: I got into comics at age 13 with Daredevil. He will always be one of my top fav heroes. Jim Lee I think influenced me the most with his run on X-Men back in the mid 90’s and definitely Naruto impacted the way I drew action sequences. The goofball nature of Teen Titans and Anime is also a big influence on Gladstone’s. I get my inspiration from every genre from every country. At the moment I’m a huge fan of some of the art that’s coming out of France and Europe.
A: What mentors helped you to become the artist you are today?
AVJ: Some of my mentors in comics have been the artists that I’ve never met. Jim Lee and his style and way of drawing, The simple yet detailed and epic action sequences of Dragonball-Z’s artist Akira Toriyama. And to this day I still look to some of my favorite artists to mentor me. Olivier Coipel is a Marvel artist right now that geeks me out whenever I see his work and even indie artists who do not work for such big names like Marvel or DC impact me greatly. Corey Lewis is a great indie artist who shines and his personality explodes every time he draws a page or piece. I never really had a real life mentor but what I love about comics and especially indie comics these days is how you can almost read and learn and know what the artist/writer is thinking when he drew it. And if you look and learn from them it can almost feel like they’re personally teaching you.
A: What other comics have you worked on besides this one? Which are you most proud of?
AVJ: My first big break was illustrating Tokyopop’s ZAPT!, a kid’s manga and I also did The Muppet Robin Hood for BOOM! studios. and then of course Gladstones. To be honest, I’m proud of all my work. Each book had different experiences that came along with it and I’m mostly proud of just being able to do comics. I love drawing comics more than anything 🙂
A: I hear you guys are doing a Kickstarter. Any information you’d like to say about that?
AVJ: Our Kickstarter is going right now with a little over 2 weeks left. Primarily it’s meant to get funding so that we can finish the colors and lettering for series two and three. We have over 200 pages inked and ready to go but we need help to pay for a colorist and letterer to finish off the books. Me and Mark have been doing these books without any pay and I’ve been doing the art for series 3 which will about 150 pages long while also working at a full-time job. Its pretty hard but we love it and it’s a great passion of ours and labor of love. We want to get these books out to our fans and hopefully eventually make it into a full-time job in itself so that we just keep turning out books all year round.
A: And after that?
AVJ: Our plan for Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors is to be an ongoing series. Our dream is for fans to have a bookshelf that has volumes and volumes of Gladstone’s. Why not, right? In the comic industry it’s dream big or stay small. Haha.
And there you have it! If you’re interested in Gladstone’s– which you have every right to be — then check out their Facebook page for more information. And if you’ve got a bit of extra money lying about or are feeling rather generous, why not donate it to their Kickstarter? As I am writing this, they have collected $3,872, but their goal’s a bit more than that– $2,128, to be exact. Go on and give it a look. Here is the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/380844818/gladstones-school-for-world-conquerors-digital