Interview:Micah Gunnell

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On February 15, 2008, Ryan Gibson Stewart conducted an interview with Micah Gunnell via email.


To begin...

Ryan Stewart: Can you tell us about your start in comics?

Micah Gunnell: The first summer after attending the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art for a year I participated in comicbookresources.com's Comic Book Idol competition. I was one of ten people picked out of around 300 applicants, so I was really stoked to just be in the contest! To make a long story short, I didn't win, but I was noticed by the folks at Aspen Comics and was contacted about submitting some work to them. I ended up flying up and hanging out with the crew a couple of times before being offered an internship, which ended up lasting about two weeks before turning into a full-time, paid position. It was probably one of the most exciting moments in my life!


How did you get the opportunity to work on the Heroes graphic novels?

Aspen was contracted to provide artwork for many of the webcomics, and since I'm one of the artists working for them they asked me if I wanted to be a part of it.


So how does it feel to have created more Heroes graphic novels than any other artist?

It's pretty cool! To be honest I'm not even sure what the exact number is that I've done...I just know it's a lot! It's definitely an exciting thing to be a part of, and I feel really honored and blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with these characters.


Which graphic novel did you enjoy drawing the most? Why?

Hmm...Thats a tough one! I think the one that I've enjoyed most is the one I'm working on right now actually. It has some very interesting moments with different character interactions, as well as chances for me to portray what the characters' inner thoughts are beyond what they're saying. My number one goal when drawing a comic is to get the reader to understand what the characters are going through emotionally and just to empathize with them. The other reason I'm enjoying this one the most is because my favorite work is almost always the latest thing I'm doing. Usually it only takes a couple of days for me to hate work that I've done. :) I think it's a good thing though because it means you're improving.


Which character was a particular favorite for you to draw? Why?

Hiro on Tokyo subway.JPG

I don't know if I really have a favorite...I've enjoyed all of them for different reasons. I enjoy getting to know each of the characters and trying to understand and analyze why they think and act the way they do. They're all different, and they're all interesting in their own way.


Whom do you find the most difficult to draw? Why?

It's been a while since I've drawn him, but I think I would say Hiro. He has unusual physical characteristics. He doesn't have a traditional build and his facial features are very distinct. Though it makes drawing him a bit more difficult, it also makes it more fun. I'd like to take him on again since he's probably my favorite character from the series.


Do you have any regular contact with your fellow Heroes artists? What about the colorists? The writers?

No, no, and no. Haha. The only people I'm in regular communication with is my editor at Aspen. He's sort of the liaison between the people at NBC and the artists that draw the webcomics.


Do you ever get input from anybody beyond what is written in the script?

Generally the only feedback I get is if there's a change of some kind that needs to be made in the layout stage.


Do you have any influence over who colors your Heroes work? Any preference?

No, I don't have any real influence. I've been happy with the colorists that I've worked with. They're all great at what they do.


What can you tell us about the graphic novel you are working on now?

That I'll be drawing it! Seriously though, I'm not really sure if I'm supposed to reveal anything, so you'll just have to wait and see! Artistically, I'm definitely using more black than I've ever used, which I'm really enjoying.


The Crane line art.JPG

The Crane

What was it like drawing a nuclear explosion?

Umm, it was cool I guess! Honestly most of that effect was created by the colorist, which I believe was Mark Roslan.


In this novel, we get to see a glimpse of how Hiro lives, and we learn that he has tons of posters, comics, and action figures. Tell us about the references you put in Hiro's apartment.

Well, I'm a big fan of manga (Japanese comics), and anime so I tried to put a few little references to some of my favorites. As far as the action figures go, I don't really remember what I did with that...It been a while! Suffice to say, I've had friends who are very much like Hiro in that regard so I probably used some of my own experiences with that kind of thing when drawing Hiro's room.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

It was the very first Heroes story I sold the artwork from.


Aftermath

I notice you often add your own little references via graffiti. You mentioned that "soma" is a reference to Brave New World. Why have you adopted that as your signature Easter Egg?

Basically, I used to do a little bit of graffiti back in the day, and "soma" was my tag. As far as it being a reference to Brave New World, I'm definitely a politically-minded person, very anti-government control, and I think there are many parallels between Aldous Huxley's vision of the future and the world we're on the brink of living in today. So basically I want to make people think by putting that in there.


The graffiti also says what looks like "PNC" and "Reflekt MTA". Any significance?

Reflekt was another name I used to write. PNC was just something I made up.


Soma wall.jpg

Oh, and there’s "MG + AL". Do I detect a hidden Valentine, or were you trying to send a message to Ali Larter?

"A.L." is my ex.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I enjoyed drawing Claire. :)


Control

Was it your choice to have Matt drive through Grove Promenade, or was it part of the script? Why Grove Promenade?

That was what the script specified. I don't know the significance of it, if there is any.


Matt crashes into a bunch of LA Dodgers bobbleheads. The names on the toys are Andy Stacey and Ken Brown, but I've never heard of these guys as being on the Dodgers, or even being baseball players. Who are they?

Two of my best friends from back in my home town. I always try to give shout outs to my friends in my comics, and since I figured I probably couldn't put names of real players due to legal reasons I decided it was a good place to fit that in.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

That I don't like drawing bobble-heads and plastic palm trees, but I think Matt is cool.


Isaac's First Time

What's up with Uluru? Who is he? A lot of fans seem really fascinated by him--any chance we might see more of Uluru?

I really don't know, but I hope so! I loved drawing him...So much cool texture!


Are the paintings you drew in Isaac's room and at the Deveaux Gallery specific paintings?

Nope, just random stuff I made up.


I loved it when Isaac "grabbed" the "knock knock" sound effects. Total hallucination that can only happen in the comics!

Thanks! I can't take credit for that though, it was written that way in the script. I thought it was a cool touch too.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

Sylar boo-yah!.jpg

I identify with Isaac since we're both artists, so from that standpoint it was really fun to draw. I like the conflict in his character and the fact that he obviously has some pretty major issues.


Turning Point

What can you tell us about David, Sylar's victim at the beginning of the novel?

Not much! The first half of the story was done by my good buddy Marcus To, so you may have to ask him.


Why did you and Marcus both work on the novel? What parts did each of you do?

He did the first two pages, I did the last three. I believe the reason for this was that it was extremely rushed and one artist couldn't have done all five pages quickly enough.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

That I drew Sylar before he even was revealed on the show! Boo-yah!


Fathers & Daughters

Both you and Travis Kotzebue worked on the art for this novel. Why?

Again, whenever there are two artists working on a single story, it almost always relates back to time constraints.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I like drawing fat, drunken, bald slobs.


Edna Mode would be disappointed.JPG

Super-Heroics

This novel was a bit different than others since it was more of a traditional superhero-based story. What was that like?

Yeah, it was fun! It's actually the first straight-up superhero story I've ever done, so it took a little adjustment on my part.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I hope I never have to fight my own doppelgänger, because I'm pretty sure he'd kick my ass.


Wireless

22 pages! That's some feat!

Yeah, it was crazy! That's the size of a standard comic though, so nothing I wasn't used to doing. I don't think I've ever worked consecutively on deadlines that tight though, so it was a challenge at times.


Was Stana Katic already cast for the role of Hana when you started working on this?

Yeah, she was cast already. It would've been difficult if she weren't!


When you first introduced Hana to the world, did you know she would play such a large part in the Heroes Evolutions experience?

No, I didn't. Actually, I haven't really been following the Heroes Evolutions stuff, so it's news to me! Glad to hear it though! I definitely was approaching Hana's story with great reverence, because I thought it was an interesting origin, and you never know which characters are going to be popular...


Hana escapes the Embassy.JPG

How were the special effects of Hana's ability accomplished?

That's a question you'll have to ask Beth Sotelo, most of it was done by her I believe. I just indicated where I wanted the "energy" to go, and she did most of the rest. Beth is awesome!


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I have a soft-spot for Hana, since I did so many pages of her story. It's interesting to see people's motivations, and I remember waiting impatiently to see how her story ended. Plus, I recently found out I'm one-sixteenth Jewish so I gotta big up my peeps.


Bully

I think you nailed Noah Gray-Cabey's likeness. Of all your characters, I think your Micah looks the most like Micah. Must be the name, eh?

Yeah, I just know Micah like I know myself. :) I thought it was kind of an interesting coincidence that there was a character with the same name as me on a show that I was working on. It's not a very common name after all. Thanks for the compliment on Micah's likeness! I think I probably focused on that more than maybe some of the other characters I've done, because its tough to draw kids, so I ended up looking at as many photos as I could of him before I started drawing it.


When Micah kicks Frank in the groin, I think I speak for every living man who has ever read the comic when I say, "Uunngh!"

Yeah, Micah doesn't play! Glad I could make you feel the pain, that's my objective in every comic I do, to make the the reader feel physical pain while reading it. :)


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I was originally going to try and make the bully, Frank, look like my boss Frank Mastromauro, but because of time constraints I ended up just making up his likeness.


Normal Lives

Crumpling hands.jpg

Can we know more about Marcus's ability?

He apparently has the ability to crush garbage cans! Basically what I know of his powers is somewhat vague, just that he has to touch things with his hands in order to do any damage.


Not a question, I just wanted to say how awesome that split image of Mr. Bennet and Bob was.

Thank you! I like doing stuff like that.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

I used former DC mayor and crack smoker Marion Barry as reference for Marcus.


History of a Secret

What kind of research did you do on Egypt for this novel?

Not a whole lot, just gathered some images from Google.


Do you have any idea if we are going to see Abu Aswan in the future?

Unfortunately I don't know, I'm guessing yes though.


Can you confirm from the script when the graphic novel takes place? It says "present-day"--does this mean the day the graphic novel was released? Does it mean 2008? Does it mean the 21st century?

It takes place exactly two days after the day before yesterday. Sorry, I know I'm a smart-ass, I'm guessing present day means this year.


When Abu talks to his father, is it supposed to be in the National Library and Archives, the Aswans' home, or a separate location?

History of a Secret bnw p4.jpg

In the script it just said in his father's study. It didn't specify anything else location-wise.


Is that supposed to be the new Macbook laptop in Mr. Aswan's office?

Maybe. It's a Macbook Pro, but probably just patterned after mine, which is one generation back.


How old is Abu Aswan?

That, I do not know. Based on the reference I received he looks to be in his early twenties.


References?

I got maybe 5 pictures of two different actors whom I assume they are looking to cast for the role of Abu Aswan. I could be wrong though. I know who one of the guys was, but the other one I've never seen.


What else would you like to tell us about this novel that we don't know?

Well, one place I have to visit at some point is Egypt. I'm really interested in ancient locations, and obviously Egypt is one of the most famous.


...and finally...

Most people associated with Heroes are asked what ability they would choose to have if they could have any power. My question for you is this: if you could have any power, what would be the last power you would choose? Which power would you like to have the least?

Of the Heroes powers? Hmm, I'd have to say I really wouldn't want Isaac's powers...I have absolutely no desire to know the future.


Thank you so much, Micah. It's wonderful to hear what you have to say about your work on Heroes.

You're very welcome.



Interviews edit
Cast

Sally ChamplinAlex FernandezMike FoyJames Kyson LeeNtare Guma Mbaho MwineJoshua RushJames RyenRoberto SanchezDiana Terranova

Crew

Adam Armus and Kay FosterYule CaiseZach CraleyNate GoodmanChuck KimTim KringJason La PaduraDebra McGuireJoe TolericoKevin Tostado

Graphic Novel Crew

Robert AtkinsMicah GunnellR.D. HallJoe KellyChuck KimKotzebue brothersRyan OdagawaJG RoshellMark Sable

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BlackoutDark Mattersdirectors / writerDestinyEvs DropperGolden HandshakeInto the WildiStory (follow up) • Nowhere Mandirectors / writersThe RecruitRoot and BranchSlow Burn

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