Wolverine’s Simone Bianchi On The Evolution Of His Art [Interview + Massive Process Post]
I first became aware of the work of Simone Bianchi around 2006, when he began illustrating incredibly striking and welcomingly unusual covers for the DC Comics series Detective Comics. Shortly thereafter I caught up with Bianchi's similarly distinctive interior stylings in the collected edition of Seven Soldiers of Victory. The Italian artist was pretty busy from then on, drawing covers and stories for titles including Marvel's Astonishing X-Men, Thor: For Asgard (described by Chris Sims as "straight-up metal") and, most notably, Wolverine: Evolution, in which he memorably depicted what was said to be the title character's final confrontation with his longtime nemesis Sabertooth.
Bianchi's artwork is a visual frenzy, with every figure rendered super tightly, washed in ink and decorated with idiosyncratic design elements that maximize the dramatic effect of each page of Bianchi comics. His work is often beautiful, in that very special way that ultra-violent superhero comics can be beautiful. But some readers have suggested that while Bianchi's draftsmanship is superlative, his stylistic choices can sacrifice storytelling clarity. Among those critics is Bianchi himself, who told ComicsAlliance that his latest work on Wolverine -- a sequel to his and Jeph Loeb's famous Sabertooth story -- represents a new stage in the evolution of his artwork. We spoke with the artist about his renewed dedication to storytelling and looked at more than 30 pieces of variously in-progress Wolverine artwork, including images from the forthcoming Wolverine #311.
ComicsAlliance: You've said that your latest run on Wolverine marks a turning point for you as an artist. Before you talk about what you're doing differently, I'd like to know how you describe the way you worked before. In other words, how did you used to draw comics?
Simone Bianchi: I used to draw in a much more complicated way; in particular, the way I used to layout my pages was more complex and less straight. Since I have understood through the past few years that some folks had some reading problems with that kind of setting, I decided to go for a straighter, easier grid. I think that was the biggest difference there is between my present time work and my past work up until Thor: For Asgard, because this process, I feel, started already with my [Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force] miniseries.
CA: What are the main differences in how you work now, specifically on this new Wolverine story? How has the processed changed?
SB: Basically, I am not taking any pictures anymore, so I draw everything out of my head. The other huge difference is that I am not using thumbnails for breakdown, but I lay down the page straight on the final sheet of paper. This way, I think, I'm like forced to use a cleaner grid, which eventually results in a much easier and more understandable storytelling.
CA: You've always had such a distinct style that's immediately recognizable from everything else out there, not just on covers but on the page as well. What made you feel the need to change your approach?
SB: It's all about getting a more fluent and clearer storytelling. I want to think that my drawing personality will stay just the same and make me as recognizable as I was before. If you take each single panel, one by one, you'll have the exact Simone Bianchi you had before from a straight artistic and drawing point of view. But if you take the page as a whole, you'll find a huge difference. In better, I hope.
CA: What role do you think color plays in your work?
SB: A huge one. But not as big as for some other artists. I think that if you get to look at my pages in just black and white and ink wash, without the coloring, you can enjoy them just as much as [the colored versions]. That said, I think Simone Peruzzi is by far the best colorist working in business today and it's always such a thrill to see what he comes up with every time he sends me finished pages.
CA: Jeph Loeb is a writer known for giving his artistic collaborators opportunities to indulge themselves, which results in some very memorable, very grand images like those we saw in the previous Wolverine story, Evolution. Has your collaboration with Loeb changed along with your artwork?
SB: Not at all. My work with Jeph was just as enjoyable and collaborative as it had been for the first run, Evolution. Of course, on a side note, being so close as friends on a human level I guess is helping our working relationship a lot.
Wolverine #311 in-progress art (click images to enlarge)