Marguerite Bennett, writer of DC Comics’ Bombshells sails to creator-owned lands with Ghastly Tales with art by Kevin Eastman’s color artist Tomi Varga. The comic itself consists of three twisted tales and it will be available in digital and print format too on September 7.
We asked Tomi a few questions about himself, the project and how it came to be.
Milán Kovács (Comic Conventions): How did you and Marguerite team-up for Ghastly Tales? What made you the perfect artist?
Tomi Varga: Marguerite and I met 3 years ago during an open house at the end of my first year at The Kubert School, when she was about to graduate from Sarah Lawrence. I didn’t know she was already slated to write a Batman Annual, I thought she was just a fellow wannabe. I showed her my portfolio, she was super nice about it, said she liked the versatility and how I was doing a bit of everything, and we agreed to do something together soon. That is how I started drawing our first story, Cider, the next year, as an exercise to see how well we could work together, and we were both pretty happy, so later that year she gave me Koi, which is probably my favorite thing I have ever drawn. But our first official team-up was for In the night mountains grew for the Broken Frontier Anthology last summer, where she picked me as her artist. I was talking to the book’s publisher, Tyler Chin-Tanner from A Wave Blue World, about the other stories we had, he was interested in publishing them, and here we are.
What can you tell about the three stories and do they connect to each other?
They all stand alone, but they have a lot in common in themes. They are all really dark stories about young women who blindly chase something that leads them down dangerous paths. Marguerite writes some seriously disturbing stuff, and she writes it like poetry, her prose is so rich and beautiful. I also love how there is always a fairy tale vibe to her stories, they always feel magical, but she writes character and heartbreak so well it grounds the stories.
You are doing the cover and all interior art including the colors on Ghastly Tales. How did you approach the creation of this world and how long did it take altogether?
Like I mentioned the stories took a few years to finish entirely, we were doing them between projects, Cider took me two years, I did the pencils during school, inked them for fun in the summer, colored them the next year. Mountains… was the first story I was drawing as a professional, in a concentrated way, it took me about two weeks to paint.
My approach is to create a distinct look and pick different tools for every story I work on, both coloring and art wise. I also love to experiment with crazy layouts as we dive deeper into the madness. Cider has this scratchy old school look with the simple coloring, Koi is rich and colorful, all drawn with a brush, and I was experimenting with digital painting on Mountains. They are all set in different times in different countries, a lot of research went into the looks of things, and Marguerite gave me some amazing things to design, like the fish-lady who made it on the cover.
I remember reading your own creator-owned series Zoe on ComiXology. Do you plan to continue that story or has it already made its purpose?
Oh Zoe, thank you for picking that up. It was the first comic I drew 4 years ago, and while it never took off, it saved my life and I am really grateful for it. A former schoolmate, Otto Szentgyorgyi had the script, and choosing to draw it and pursue a career in comics gave me the courage to leave college and go to The Kubert School and get to where I am now in my life. The rest of the story is written, I have had the layouts for 3 more issues for years, and even though I have a lot of love and nostalgia for the character I don’t think I will ever finish it.
You graduated at the Kubert School and then you moved back to Hungary from the United States. Please tell some stories about this time of your life.
Those were three crazy years. Two months into it Sandy hit, half the school was sleeping on the lunch room floor for weeks after the hurricane, then we had the toughest winters of the century. The school is in a tiny town where most people don’t even speak English, there were a lot of us foreigners at the dorms with no cars, depending on other people to even get to school. Everyone was going crazy, we were drawing 10 to 14 hours a day for 3 years. The most fun we had was seeing superhero movies on opening night together and dressing up for Halloween (my class did Watchmen one year, there’s a great picture of us on Facebook where I am Ozymandias with bleached hair and a suit made of curtains by my Mom and my Australian roommate is practically naked and painted blue).
Comic fans most definitely know your name from the TMNT-world as you are Kevin Eastman’s colorist. You have done lots of covers with him already.
How did you meet him and why do you think he chose you?
The way I have been getting jobs is so random. I got my first job coloring The Shrinking Man for IDW basically on Facebook, and two issues into it one night Chris Ryall e-mailed me if I want to color Simon Bisley because Kevin’s looking for a colorist for a story they did together, and I basically told him to stop pulling a prank on me, but he said it was serious and he hooked me up with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles editor, Bobby Curnow, so I was thinking “oh boy, I’m doing the Turtles, I’m on the top of the world!” It turned out to be the remake of Fistful of Blood (which was a little awkward with all the nudity and gore, because at the time I just moved back home and was living with my parents and 10 year old sister), but we had a lot of fun. Kevin gave me a lot of freedom and liked what I was doing, and soon he let me do his covers, too, including one for Dark Knight III, and now we are working with Bill Sienkiewicz on the backups for TMNT Universe, and a poster book is coming out with a bunch of the covers we did together, it is crazy.
Working as a colorist sometimes is not the most generous thing in this industry but you are an amazing artist in your own right.
Are you working on something as an artist right now or do you plan to stick to coloring?
I have a bunch of things lined up as a colorist, some of them I can mention, like our next series with Kevin, Lost Angeles, and a story with my Turkish friend Ayse Sinav for the next anthology from A Wave Blue World, Loved & Lost, which is great, because I really enjoy coloring and it keeps me in the industry, but at the same time I am constantly developing my own stories and pitches and keep bombarding people with them – hopefully I will have something to announce soon. I like doing a bit of everything, I like writing, doing layouts, inking, coloring, and I have a hard time committing to just one thing, so the variety of roles I have been allowed to play in projects keeps me happy.
Thank you very much for doing this short interview with us, we hope to hear from your future work soon!