Interview with Mark Bagley

Mark Bagley is an American comic book artist. His career has included lengthy runs on Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. Bagley got his big break through 1983’s Marvel Try-out Book, a creation of then-Marvel editor Jim Shooter designed to bring new talent into the industry. The contest gave artists a deconstructed comic book to complete and submit to Marvel. Bagley won first place in the contest, which led to a series of pencilling jobs with the publisher. In 1990, Bagley was assigned to the New Warriors title and in the mid-90s was given a shot on The Amazing Spider-Man. Then he worked on Ultimate Spider-Man title on Brian Michael Bendis scripts bringing the title to an enormous  success. 

His work became synonymous with the hero and has been merchandised extensively. In 2008, Bagley signed an exclusive three-year contract with DC Comics.His first assignment as a DC exclusive, the weekly comic Trinity written by Kurt Busiek, completed in mid-2009. Bagley’s first assignment at DC post-Trinity was four issues of Batman, written by Judd Winick. Following Batman, Bagley was paired with writer James Robinson on Justice League of America following the departure of previous writer Dwayne McDuffie. In 2011, Bagley ended his collaboration with DC and returned to Marvel and Ultimate Spider-Man, by then known as Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man. He drew the eventful “Death of Spider-Man” arc in issues #156-160. The arc reunited him with his original Ultimate Spider-Man collaborator, Brian Michael Bendis, for the first time since Bagley’s departure from Marvel. Brian Michael Bendis and Bagley will also work on Avengers Assemble. In a recent Marvel NOW! teaser trailer, it’s been revealed that Matt Fraction will be working with Bagley on the newly rebooted Fantastic Four.

Thanks Mark for joining us at Lospaziobianco… Let’s start with questions.
Did you specifically refer to Ditko and Romita Sr. when you started drawing SM? Did you refer to other classic SM artists?

Not specifically to those gentlemen. Though I am a fan of both, I really keyed on Gil Kane’s run on Amazing. I always found his style really influential with me. That could be because I was in my teen years, and really loved how Kane drew the action sequences, and the characters.

Since you drew also “original” Spider-Man let’s consider you as a “classic” SM artist. How did you try to diversify original SM from the Ultimate one?
That was really pretty easy for me. I really felt Ult. was “MY” Spidey. Mine to interpret. I felt no real obligation to be loyal to all of Amazing Spider-man’s history. Drawing Ult. was very freeing for me, and I loved the fact that we kept Pete as a 15 year old.

Anyway in your run on original SM you took a distance from the excess of McFarlane and Larsen style…Was this a choice of your own?
Not really a “choice”, just a function of having a different style than them. I did embrace quite a bit of their storytelling devices…broken panels, an emphasis on the “image” over pure storytelling. I learned a LOT from what they were doing. I tried to really meld the traditional old school storytelling I’d grown up with, and been encouraged to utilize, and the Image guys’ breaking of a lot of those rule and conventions. I think it made me a better and more exciting visual story teller.

Bendis scripts often had not so much “action” inside. As a reader I felt like you had fun in drawing these “daily life” scenes. Did you really liked them or you prefer action ones?
“Prefer” is not the right term. I DID come to enjoy the character moments as much, or more than the action sequences. I love portraying the characters “acting”, and I think the fact that I’m not a very realistic artist lets me draw feeling and emotions with a lot of life.

Is there a series of number you prefer compared to the others?
Ahhh, that’s difficult. But looking back on my Ult. run, I think the Clone Saga was a real high point in both story and art. It helped that we seemed to have the perfect team.. John Dell, Justin Ponsor , and Drew Hennesey really made what I brought to the page shine.

You did realize a really long run on Ultimate SM. It is hard to find artists able to give such a continuity to a series. Which impulses you had to go ahead for so long?
I just loved the book. I loved Brian’s writing. I enjoyed the fact that we were a stand alone product, so we didn’t have to worry about a bunch of crossovers or company wide events. We could just tell our story, and the fans loved the book. I only left the book for professional reasons…I felt that I should go and let folks know I was capable of drawing other things. To be honest I still miss it.

You came back on USM to draw Peter Parker death saga. How did you feel actually in killing a charachter you handled for so long? What do you think about new “Miles Morales” USM?
I love Miles…Ultimate Spidey is still one of the only books I buy. Brian’s writing is top notch, and Sara (l’italianissima Sara Pichelli – ndr)and David are terrific artists. I was really honored to be asked to draw the Death storyline, and it was a great way to reintroduce me to the Marvel universe. The fact that it was my Spidey made it a really nice circle of life if you will…I think I really would have been hurt if I hadn’t been asked.

You can find Italian translation of this interview here

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