An Interview with Bob Almond, by Steven "Paradox" Pott
Hi, folks. Paradox here with Bob Almond, inker on Marvel's Black Panther. I suppose we should get the obligatory stuff out of the way, first, Bob.
Q: Tell us a little about the history of Bob Almond. Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Seoul, Korea but I was only there a matter of days to weeks. I grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts where I reside presently.
Q: Was the art field something you were striving for from the beginning?
A: I actually have no recollection of striving to enter this field until my dad brought home my first few comics in '76-'77. From then on in I was determined that this was the life for me (Ah, ignorant youth :-))
Q: Were your parents supportive of this?
A: Sure. But my dad found it strange that I preferred to read comics or create home-made comics 24/7 instead of playing outside since he'd been more of an outdoors kind of child. Still, they never gave up supporting me, God bless 'em.
Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have a BFA in Illustration from what is now known as UMASS of Dartmouth. It was here that my local friends and fellow comic pros attended and also got a BFA in illustration such as Craig Rousseau, David Tata and Norman Lee who was a classmate and later my ink assistant for 2 years. My senior project was a 3 story anthology graphic novel which I wrote, drew and inked. I commissioned a friend to do the lettering. I finished two out of three stories but still got an A.
Q: How, exactly, did you break into the comics business? What was your first published work?
A: While in college a friend and classmate gave me Bernie Wrightson's contact info for an academic project where we needed to interview an artist and do a piece of work in their style. Today I can't believe I actually called him since this is so intrusive and he had every right to just tell me off and hang up but he and his wife not only spent considerable time letting me interview them but he even invited me to attend his annual Halloween bash later that year which truly exhibits the wonderful kind of people they are. Not only was I in attendance but this became an annual event. Upon graduation from college in 1990 I was a fast-food manager, of all things, and spent what free time I had developing my portfolio to become a penciller. But all I seemed to do is collect rejection letters. Occasionally Bernie and his neighbors and local professional artist friends would get together and bring their recent artwork to someone's home for show and tell and !
just schmooze. I attended a couple of these and would bring my portfolio. In the fall of '91 I was showing Bernie my recent attempt to ink over vellum some pencil samples Dark Horse Comics had sent me. Bernie had his bud Jim Starlin look them over. Jim had recently returned to Marvel writing SILVER SURFER, INFINITY GAUNTLET and had returned to his memorable characters in WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH. After a couple of issues inker Terry Austin decided to move on and the title needed a new inker. So Jim told me that he would send me 3 pages of pencil photocopies of Angel Medina's work to ink over and when he did he said that to test my determination to complete a deadline on time he wanted the 3 pages inked in 3 days and turned back over to him. Problem was I was scheduled all three days of that weekend and had no one to switch shifts with. I put in at least 30 hours in those days and worked on the pages during the remaining time. Sadly I didn't finish everything and!
typed out an apology and explanation to Jim as I shipped the work out. Jim was honest and expressed that he'd do what he could but it didn't look good. To my shock Jim called me in November saying that after considerable arm twisting he talked his editor into hiring me expressing that if I could complete what I did under the circumstances that I would have no problem with deadlines whatsoever without a day job being in the way. So he suggested I kiss fast food goodbye and, by my birthday, January 4th of 1992, I received my first Angel Medina pencils to ink on WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH # 5. I feel incredibly indebted to Jim and Bernie, whom I see from time to time at conventions, for setting my dream career into motion.
Q: Tell us about the "tools of the trade". What materials and tools do you use in your inking work?
A: For most of my short career I used mostly brush, mainly Windsor-Newton series 7, sometimes Raphael Kolinsky. I supported this with quill work(Hunt 102 mostly) as well as Pigma Micronmarkers. As my relationship with Sal Velluto, begun in fall of '97, developed I was using mostly the markers and some quill and much less brushwork to better adapt to his style of work. Other tools include erasers, razor blades, crayons, toothbrushes, zip-a-tone, rulers, rapidographs, templates and whatever else I can use to utilize my 'bag of tricks' in ink.
Q: Where do you work? I assume, like most these days, that you're working at home. Do you have a separate office or just a workspace set aside in the corner of a room?
A: I have a bedroom converted into a 'studio' in my home.
Q: Do you have a wife or "significant other"? How do they feel about your job in comics? About comics in general?
A: When I was dating my wife I had her read several works like Miller's DAREDEVIL and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and Claremont and Byrne's X-MEN. She turned out reading X-MEN and related titles up until about 3 years ago and experienced work like Kurt and Alex' MARVELS and scores of other material so I can say that she enjoys comics even though she doesn't read them as much these days. She's my number one cheerleader. Although trying to find space for 80 short comic boxes stacked about can be a challenge for the home decor but she knew what she was in for when she married me :-)
Q: In your inking, who else's work has had a big influence on you?
A: While I had many influences for years in the skill of pencilling like Perez, Adams, Golden, Byrne, Kirby, Starlin, Steranko, Miller and a cast of thousands, once I was suddenly hired as an inker I found myself studying those inkers I was fond of while growing up on comics like Rubenstein, Austin, Farmer, Palmer, Janson, and Layton among others. I respect Bob Layton, like Giordano before him, for starting out in inking and progressing to pencils, writing, editing and ed-in-chief.
Q: Like me, I know you're a big ol' Avengers geek. How did you find out you'd gotten the gig working on one of the Avengers and what was your first thought about it?
A: Sal and I had finished our BLOODSHOT run at Acclaim in '98 and we picked up some small projects together with DC and Marvel over the following year. As we completed a JLA job in late spring of '99 Sal was contacted by Ruben Diaz who had just become editor of BLACK PANTHER which had changed status from a Marvel Knights title to a Marvel Universe title. I had done some SLINGERS work for Ruben recently so when Sal requested me along for the ride Ruben was happy to accommodate us as a team. This having been the closest I'd yet reached to working on an AVENGERS -related title I was ecstatic, especially since I was familiar with the character's history and was eager to help add to the mythos.
Q: Could you describe your part in the process of working with Priest, Sal and Mike on the Black Panther book?
A: Mike forwards Priest' scripts to me and Sal to read over. Sal and I discuss over the phone various aspects of the story and how to handle stuff. Sal, as penciller, composes the layouts of the story and renders the art in pencil and I complete the process by enhancing/rendering his work in ink. And I e-mail lotsa color notes from myself and Sal to Mike to forward to the color studio VLM. But throughout this monthly process the 4 of us are in constant correspondence. This is the strongest, most vital element in the creative process with BLACK PANTHER, communication. I've experienced a synergy in this team that I've yet to experience before where everyone is on the same page to achieve the best we can as a team unit. Never before was respect given to my thoughts and suggestions by other creators on past projects. Sal and Priest are respectful enough to listen to my requests and thoughts and, on *most* occasions, even utilize them. And I've unoffic!
ially played 'continuity cop' when something occasionally contradicted something in a story and 'reference guy' when Sal needed some obscure character or location scanned or mailed to him quickly. This is why Priest began crediting me as a 'storyteller' with issue 19 and I've felt honored with that distinction to this day.
Q: You've done a lot to help promote Black Panther at Comicboards.com and elsewhere. Isn't that kind of unusual for an inker? Have you done this kind of thing for other jobs you've had? If not, what made you promote Black Panther so heavily?
A: No, I've never promoted a project as heavily before which may partially be due to the fact that I didn't even get connected to the web until 2 months before our Panther run commenced. As I've stated above, I don't quite feel like 'just an inker'. True, I don't get paid for any extra work or ideas I may contribute to the book but this is and has always been my choice. It isn't about the money but about being part of something that truly motivates you. The fact that I'm 'in the know' of much of what is coming up in the title makes me just as vital as Mike or Sal or Priest in the promotions department. Considering the state of the industry today there isn't always the money and manpower by the publisher available to promote all the titles as much as we'd like so, call me selfish, but I'm proud of every aspect of the Panther title and am willing to spend the time plugging it to the world to help keep BLACK PANTHER in print. There are various reason!
s the book is still around like Marvel's and the fan's support but I'd like to think our consistent work and enthusiasm is a key factor.
Q: Early in your run, you and Sal were doing a bit of experimental stuff with the artwork in Black Panther. It didn't seem to be too well received by the readers. Did this disappoint you?
A: That was Sal's call. A few months earlier in an unpublished DEATHLOK tryout we tried a similar approach due to the gritty content. When Sal first discussed the Panther title with Ruben he was under the impression that the color quality would be much akin to a Vertigo title and thus experimented to coincide with the colors and content. This style was more angular, grittier, sketchier or more kinetic, and consisted of non-functional curved lines in objects that affectionately were labeled as 'squigglies' on-line by readers. Sal and I were disappointed, to say the least, when we first saw our first issue printed. Sal spoke to Ruben, Ruben said he'd work on it but the process was just not nor ever in synch with our work so by issue 17 we changed back to our more traditional look. The quality of color dropped quite a bit once the Marvel Knights banner was dropped by issue 13 and even with the later addition of colorist Steve Oliff to the team Sal an!
d I were most often left disappointed for months. It was with the addition of color studio VLM with our 30th issue that our confidence was fueled and the work has never looked so good.
Q: You've recently had an editorial switch from Tom Brevoort to Mike Marts. Are there any significant differences in how they handle things?
A: Tom was very open to our thoughts and ideas and did a lot more than his predecessor to help sell the book. If Tom never came aboard when he did I have my doubts about whether there would still be a Panther book to plug The transition to Mike was very smooth. For one thing, all three of us worked with Mike at Acclaim and were comfortable with him. Another thing, he had confidence in what we were doing and felt if it ain't broke don't fix it. Where I'm used to dealing 90% with the assistant editors, Mike is one of those hands-on editors that never lets you feel that your concerns are below him or that he doesn't have time for you. Like Tom, he cares... and this is not very common among editors. They have more in common than differences. Both editors could have followed the common practice of replacing us upon their debut...but they had the integrity to go against the grain and not fire us :-)
Q: Do you ever go to comic conventions? How do you like them?
A: Love 'em. But rarely have time for them. I do like 1-2 local Boston shows and 1-2 out-of-state shows a year like New York or Charlotte. When you spend most of your time staring at a desk and talking to fans and fellow pros via the internet it is quite a relief to talk up-close and personal with friends and fans. It's the most rewarding way to hear what the fans have to say and to spread the word and show samples to new reader recruits. FYI, it was through the NY All-Time Classic Comic Con last year that Sal and I first met.
Q: What's been your favorite thing about working on the Black Panther book? Your least favorite?
A: Adding to the rich history of work on Black Panther established by the likes of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Billy Graham and Don McGregor and their many concepts and characters. I'm honored to be on this list of Panther creators and to have followed the talented Marvel Knights artists who really set up the present title's foundations with Priest. I'm glad to work with a writer like Priest who respects the work and stories of those before him but endeavors to give it all a refreshing, relevant and unconventional approach. Also of note, it's been very rewarding to see sales increase over the last few months after several months of a slow descent. I think that's a very positive statement.
Besides the earlier-mentioned coloring issues my least favorite thing is probably the comic readers who have already conceived a notion of what the book is about and decided they don't like it without having read it. I've run across more people who've stated that this was why they resisted the book and, finally, something pulled them in to read an issue and now they regret having not been aboard all along and now are trying desparately to seek out back issues.
Here's a bunch of Quick Shot fanboy questions. Answer as shortly or at length as you like.
Q: Your favorite currently published comic title (other than Black Panther, of course)?
A: Easy, AVENGERS, of course.
Q: Your favorite all-time comic title?
A: See answer above.
Q: Your favorite comic character?
A: As a kid, Wonderman. Today, I dunno....several.
Q: What current comics are you reading?
A: I'm about a year behind in my reading but I'm still buying and reading when time allows: AVENGERS, FF, CAPTAIN MARVEL, DEFENDERS, THOR, THUNDERBOLTS.
Q: What was the first comic you ever read?
A: I can remember what were the first issues I read of a title and who did them but not the FIRST comic ever.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Contenders: Angel, Simpsons, X-files, David E. Kelly shows.
Q: What work of yours are you the most proud of? The least proud of?
A: Most: BLACK PANTHER / Least: too ashamed to say :-)
Q: What's your schedule like? Could you give us a rundown of an average day in the life of Bob Almond?
A: Ha! What life! Get up, shower, eat, work, eat, work, eat, work, shower, sleep! Oh, and I promote my work on-line and I get to see my family occasionally :-)
And, now, with apologies to Craig Kilborn and James Lipton, it's time for 'DOX'S FIVE STUPID QUESTIONS!
Q: What's your favorite ice cream?
A: Ben & Jerry's Urban Jungle
Q: What's your favorite smell?
A: My 5 year old son. And old comic newsprint:-)
Q: What's the worst job you've ever had?
A: My only other job...fast food.
Q: What's the stupidest thing that you'll dare to tell us you've done?
A: I ain't the daring type, sorry.
Q: Boxers or briefs?
A: Not knowing what I look like would you even *want* to know this?!
Q: In conclusion, is there anything you'd like to tell the fans about yourself or the Black Panther comic that you think people should know?
A: Just try us out for 2-3 issues. I think you'll like what you see. We're celebrating Panther's 35th anniversary this year and
our 100-page monster ships this week so please check it out. It was a
load of fun to put together and we look forward to hearing from you. And
thanks so much for this opportunity.
I'd like to take this time to thank Bob for taking time out of
his busy schedule for this inordinately long Q & A, and For more
information on Bob Almond, check out Bob Almond's Inkwell
Place to discuss the interview:
Black Panther Message
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