If you don’t know who Guy Dorian, Sr. is, then you simply haven’t been paying attention. He had his first comic work published at Marvel Comics in New Warriors #48 (1994). Guy so impressed his editor, that it was just the start of his career at Marvel. He’s worked on Marvel Comics Presents, Daredevil, Night Thrasher, and many projects over the years. Some of his other comic work includes work on UltraForce, Hari Kari, Bad Girls, Hakkiro Soul Quest, and many others. Not just making an impression on the comics themselves, Guy has worked on many trading card sets for both Marvel and DC Comics.
In addition to all of his comicbook work, Guy has actually expanded beyond comics, and has built up his portfolio in a variety of different art fields, such as toy designs (for WWF/WWE), trading cards (again including for the WWF), coloring books, magazine covers, stickers, billboards, newspaper comic strip ads, and much more. Some of these other works include Hercules and Xena watch designs, character development for the Silver Surfer cartoon series, Star Wars Comics to Color and the list goes on and on.
Even beyond to his artwork, Guy is also a lecturer focusing on fine art as well on professional comicbook art, and is available for speaking engagements at businesses and corporations. Currently he is working closely with the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center on big projects (that he discusses in this interview), as well as character development for Marvel Comics Avengers Assemble, and a self-published comic that he is working on with his son (Guy Dorian, Jr.) and others.
We recently caught up with Guy and (finally) got the chance to talk to him about his very busy, very full schedule.
RJS: So when did you break into comics?
Guy Dorian, Sr: I broke into comics at the age of 22 almost 23. I had tried for about two and a half years to get into Marvel, with the help of my brother Ian, Mark Pacella, and Dan Panosian, as well as my wife’s willingness to wait, and also my aunt Trudy who helped me financially to go back and forth into New York.
Thanks to my brother’s connections with Mark Pacella, I became his assistant. When I met Dan Panosian both he and Mark brought me into Marvel…Dan took me into Marvel to see the editors. So after two-and-a-half years of trying to bring up samples into Marvel — which was a wonderful place to hang out back in those days — you could hang out in Marvel and talk to everyone and meet everyone; and I would do my samples right there at Marvel. The editor I had seen first was Ralph Macchio. He looked at my work and said it will take you about two-and-a-half-to-three years to get in; he was right on the money. Finally, after many years of struggle, with my wife and I eating peas out of a can for our lack of money, and many tears on the train ride home, I walked in to Rob Tokar’s office where he was doing New Warriors and showed him my samples. I went into his office he started to look at my work, and he got a phone call right then. He seemed to be on the phone and I didn’t want to interrupt him so I decided to leave thinking…“Oh well, I guess I won’t have a job again.” But as I was walking out he said, “Hey, what’s your schedule like? I think I have a job for you.” Just like that, I began my first job at Marvel.
Actually as I recall now my actual first work was through the Daredevil office with Editor Pat Garrahy. Pat was Mark’s editor, I believe, and said, “Hey, why don’t you do some samples of Daredevil…here’s a script.” It was a backup story. That was the first actual paid work I got — I got paid $50 per page for those pencils. He then bought a pinup of Daredevil from me but it was never published. He also bought a double-page splash pinup of the Fantastic Four. So that was really my first work. As I mentioned before, I started my work on I believe issue #48 of New Warriors, and Rob Tokar purchased a pin-up of Nova from me.
GD, Sr: At the age of maybe eight or nine my brother Ian and I saw comics on the stands and were amazed by them. Comics by Jack Kirby, Walter Simonson, Neal Adams, John Byrne, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema — to name a few, had captured our attention. The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash — not to mention the cartoons and audio books that we purchased as well as toys. These things made us want to draw comicbooks. At a very early age my twin brother (Ian) and I studied from artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, Albrecht Durer just to name a few. We were both sent to a gifted school and there we gained a lot of confidence that we could actually acquire those high heights of becoming professional artists.
RJS: You really have bounced around not only in the kinds of books you’ve done but the type of art you’ve done. Everything from comics to tour designs, to — as you told me at Winter Con; sculpting and landscapes — how do you explain that?
GD, Sr: Well, I bounced around because I consider myself an artist first not only in the field of comics but in many forms of fine art. I have always loved to draw paint, watercolor, sculpt, build, write, and dance. I’ve even done acting. I’ve worked on comicbooks, toys, games, movies, I’ve been printed in comic strips, coloring books, trading cards, toy boxes, t-shirts, calendars, you name it. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of commissions that have been spread all around the world from portrait art to paintings to pen and ink drawings of scenes, places, people, everything. Of all things I am most asked to draw its usually comicbook characters. I started out spreading my wings in the ‘90s while I was at Marvel and I spread into the toy companies such as Toy Biz, Courier International, and just toys as well as others. I worked on such things as The Tick, Pony Trails, The Three Stooges, Wind in the Willows, Hercules, Xena, Nerf Guns, Power Rangers, WWE (at that time WWF) figures and trading cards and any other toys I could work on.
RJS: Do you think that art is art and that it is something genetic or do you think that is a learned trait? I get that you can teach technique, but do you believe that some people are simply predisposed to be better at it than others?
GD, Sr: Well as far as art is concerned everyone can learn technique, whether or not they are good or bad, people can learn…well, at least the average person can learn how to use technique to make art that looks interesting. There are a lot of techniques that through practice people can use to do works of art that may seem to be okay to fantastic depending upon how well they learned the medium…How well they learned those techniques, but some people like myself have a different sense. Where we can just see art as design, structure, light and shadow, color atmosphere, texture, energy and feel it. See it and embody it, because it’s just how we see the world. Whether we never took one lesson or took a hundred thousand lessons, we would be able to produce artworks of high quality that are beyond what most people would normally be able to do. But if you asked me to sing I can’t do it. How lame.
RJS: Given that you seem to be doing all sorts of art these days is there any that you prefer more than others:
GD, Sr: No, there is no one type that I prefer over another. I prefer the challenge of creation, the challenge of inception, and understanding. I prefer the challenge of accomplishment and reaching a goal. I prefer to be tested, and I prefer to conquer and achieve. Whatever type or style of art or medium that is required, those are the factors that make me enjoy them equally no matter what they are.
RJS: Your brother, Ian is also a very talented artist in the same field of comics. Is there any rivalry, friendly or otherwise between you two?
GD, Sr: There is no rivalry between the two of us. We do try to influence each other to do better and push each other. We can work well together at times and other times we don’t work well at all. I would say that you know I started out as a professional when I was 22, my brother started out doing small parts of some of the projects that I had when I was younger and working in my early twenties. Ian went off to college to get his Master’s degree and become a professor, and became a professional stone carver, sculptor, as well as painter, illustrator…you name it he has the degree to prove it. So now that we’re both professional illustrators working in comics and for the same company! It is very special, and we actually bonded even closer because of that. We both worked on the 2015 Avengers Assemble calendar, but the one that has more of the buildings on it was done by my brother. We worked with Chris Sotomayor’s SotoColor on that and that was a fun job in some ways and in other ways it was very difficult. So we’ve worked on the Avengers calendar, commercial art that will be used for many things over the next few years on clothing; shirts, pants, shoes, books, hats, you name it…my brother was mostly the counselor and I was mostly the inker. Sometimes he did a little drawing on the computer and sometimes I felt that a little change of the figures in the illustration would improve the result. All in all, it was a fun gig in the end…and very rewarding to do that Avengers Assemble 2015 calendar.
GD, Sr: Yes, we have. We have worked on different projects to help one another out at different times such as back a long time ago when I was working on toys for tour companies, (I had done many different things from many different companies) he had helped me with some scopes for Youngblood. He helped with trading cards for the WWF, which is now called the WWE. We have worked together on stories, some eight-page, some book length stories, that 2015 Avengers Assemble calendar, illustrations for consumer products, and animation as well as more projects that I cannot think of at the very moment.
RJS: Is there any existing character you’d like to work on that you haven’t already?
GD, Sr: There are several. My number one character that I’d like to work on would be The Incredible Hulk, others would be Dr. Strange, Man-Thing, Mister Miracle, Machine Man, Black Panther, possibly Spawn, as well as the X-Men… maybe Green Lantern. I have illustrated most of those characters on or in some capacity over the course of the 22 years as a professional. I have, I could say a lot of them were done on a trading cards as well as some paintings and such, but as far as full issues most of the main few that I mentioned in the beginning were my big hitters. Oh, I forgot to mention of course the Fantastic Four! I did come up with a story based on one of the characters of the Fantastic Four that I would like to pitch to Marvel. I do have a great writer involved — a very famous one — to help me pitch that.
This is part one of a two-part interview with Guy Dorian, Sr. the second half will follow soon.
The Avengers, all members of the Avengers, The New Warriors, Daredevil, and all artwork associated with those character are © & TM 2015 Marvel Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.
Coping with the New Activism poster © & TM 2015 PKMM Entertainment/Guy Dorian.
Funnybook City, and this article is © 2015 Robert J. Sodaro, D.B.A. Freelance Ink. All rights reserved.
Robert J. Sodaro is a noted comicbook historian and journalist who began reading comics during the early ‘60s while sitting on the newsstand in his Uncle’s “Mom & Pop” grocery store. He has been writing about them in the early ‘80s, and wrote for virtually every print comicbook publication published during the ‘80s & ‘90s. These days, much of his writing can be found on Examiner.com.