The Magical Arts: an interview with J.H. Williams III, part1.

J.H. Williams III is one of the most talented artists in American comics today. In this 3-part exclusive interview, we talk about his work on Promethea (the fantastic series written by Alan Moore), his collaborations with Grant Morrison and much more.

Wellington Srbek: It is a pleasure to be talking to you, who I consider one of the best American comic book artists today. Please give your Brazilian fans some biographic information: Where and when you were born? Which comics and artists you loved as a kid? Which ones had most influence on your work?

J.H. Williams III: Hello to Brazil. I was born in Roswell, New Mexico on December 18th 1965. According to my mother the first thing I ever picked up with my own hands as an infant was a pencil. As a young adolescent boy I was attracted to superhero comicbooks of all kinds but never really considered who was writing or drawing them until later. However, I was always drawing the characters. One of my earliest memories was doing drawings of Iron Man and Spiderman and The Hulk, a lot of the Marvel characters. As for influence, I'd have to say during those formative years was being exposed to the Micronauts. You see as a boy I was very much infatuated with these toys called Micronauts. I had lots of them and was addicted to playing with them and finding new ones. So one day I'm looking at some comicbooks in the local market spinner racks and came across a Micronauts comicbook. It was the first issue and because of my obsession with those toys I had to buy it. I walked home and read it right away. I think my brain exploded with imagination when reading that comic. It had affected me like no other comic had before. The story was brilliant and thought provoking. The art was magnificent and looked unlike anything I had seen before. This was the first comic that I truly studied every detail of and therefore noticed that credits were attached to the work. I had never really paid any attention to the fact that people wrote and drew these things until that point. Those creators were writer Bill Mantlo and artist Michael Golden with inks by Al Milgrom. That single comic series changed my young life. Some school friends of mine were talking with me about comicbooks and said if I liked Micronauts so much I should see this other comic called Uncanny X-men. They showed me what they had and it was one of the earliest Claremont and Byrne issues. I was immediately hooked on that too. It was just as powerful and inspiring as the Micronauts but in a different way. Both those series had very distinct unique voices from each other, but both were very powerful forces on my adolescent mind. It was from that point in my childhood that I decided I would be a comicbook artist. So I'd say those were the most influential comics growing up. From there I went on to discover Kirby, Ditko, Moebius and many others in my youth.

WS: Many of your books have different art styles and techniques. It suggests a solid background in visual arts and a taste for research. Am I right?

J3: My main background in art is really being self taught. I always would study whatever artwork I was looking at to try and comprehend how it was done. So I became very good at noticing all of subtle things that would make up an image. I still do that to this day. The most influential training I've ever had was an advertising art and design class. This class was less about the quality of the drawing and more about the idea behind the drawing. This has had the most impact on all of my work. The main reason why my drawings were decent as a youth was because I was drawing and sketching all of the time. So much that I would think my work would be better today than it is. But seriously this was one of the things that my advertising art and design teacher would say: "that my drawings were decent because I practiced all of the time". But his main goal was to get me to think about WHAT I was drawing. The way a composition was working. What was the drawing trying to say.

WS: I've discovered yours and Mick Gray’s work in that Green Lantern Tangent book, and it was really “love at first sight”! How did you meet Mick Gray, and how was it to work with him?

J3: Thank you. I first met Mick at a convention a few years before we started working together. He was currently assisting for other inkers and was also working with Chuck Austen at the time for the series called Strips. We were sitting next to each other at this show and started talking. At the time I was quite an admirer of Strips and that was what got our relationship going. At some point after that I had convinced him to ink a pin-up I had done for something and I was thrilled at the results. From that point on I would not work with anyone else as my inker. I've exclusively worked with him up until almost the end of Promethea. That is when I began to ink all of my own work. He was the only inker that ever really worked best over my pencils until I evolved to a point where I needed to ink my own work. I cherish the partnership we had greatly.

Next: J3 talks about the magic of creating Promethea.

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