Paolo Rivera: ‘Daredevil’ artist on ‘Valiant’ return to monthly comics

July 29, 2014 | 3:05 p.m.
the valiant cover Paolo Rivera: Daredevil artist on Valiant return to monthly comics

The cover for "The Valiant," a Valiant Entertainment miniseries drawn by Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera and written by Jeff Lemire ("Sweet Tooth") and Matt Kindt ("Mind Mgmt"). (Paolo Rivera / Valiant)

the valiant immortal enemy desgin Paolo Rivera: Daredevil artist on Valiant return to monthly comics

Paolo Rivera said the script called for the Immortal Enemy to be "all and thin but also totally creepy." (Paolo Rivera/Valiant)

the valiant page 1 2 inks Paolo Rivera: Daredevil artist on Valiant return to monthly comics

Paolo Rivera's pencils for "The Valiant" are inked by his father Joe Rivera, who won a Harvey Award for best inker. (Valiant)

the valiant page 3 inks Paolo Rivera: Daredevil artist on Valiant return to monthly comics

An inked page from "The Valiant" by the son-father art team of Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera. (Valiant)

the valiant page 4 inks Paolo Rivera: Daredevil artist on Valiant return to monthly comics

An inked page from "The Valiant" by the son-father art team of Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera. (Valiant)

Paolo Rivera won two Eisner Awards for his lush work on Marvel’s “Daredevil,” but he hasn’t produced regular interior art since leaving that title in 2012. This October, he returns to monthly comics with “The Valiant,” a new miniseries written by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt. Uniting Valiant Comics’ superhero characters against a threat that has evolved through time, this project gives Rivera freedom to stretch his creative muscles in a fledgling comic-book universe, and early preview pages and concept designs promise all the detail and dynamism of his work at Marvel.

Born and raised in Daytona Beach, Fla., Rivera was introduced to comic books by his father, Joe Rivera, a painter of custom motorcycles who kept assorted issues around the house.

“I grew up in Florida not too far from Disney,” Rivera says. “I was a kid who could draw, and [people] would ask me, ‘Are you going to work for Disney when you grow up?’ And my dad always told me I shouldn’t want to, because I would just end up being a cleaner, drawing all the in-between frames, which obviously takes skill, but I can see where it would become drudgery after a while. With comics, you’re acting as more of a director. It’s just more intellectual involvement.”

Rivera dreamed of becoming a comic-book artist, but he didn’t seriously consider it as a career path until he enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Freshman year is when you choose your major, and I was trying to decide between illustration and industrial design,” Rivera says. “Industrial design would have been the ‘smarter’ choice, but I just had a lot more fun with illustration and at the same time I was also getting in contact with Jim Krueger, of ‘Earth X’ fame. He was my in to get into comics. And once I saw that there was a pathway for me, I kind of went for it full-steam.”

Helping Rivera push ahead was his instructor David Mazzuchelli, a contemporary master of the medium whose works include such classics as “Daredevil: Born Again,” “Batman: Year One” and “Asterios Polyp.”

A design page for "The Valiant." (Rivera/Valiant)

A design page for Immortal Enemy as featured in “The Valiant.” (Rivera/Valiant)

“[Mazzuchelli] was a huge influence, but I didn’t have him as a professor until my second-to-last semester, senior year, so by that time I was already working for Marvel,” says Rivera. “I was in his class, but he was critiquing the Marvel work that I was doing at the time because he had done the same thing when he was at RISD. His first job for Marvel was while he was still in school, so he was a little more forgiving than I think most teachers would have been. I was eating into his own class time, but he was more than happy to help me craft the first story that I did for Marvel.”

Rivera’s early Marvel work included the “Mythos” series of beautiful fully-painted one-shots retelling the origins of classic characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men and Captain America, and his art proved equally impressive when he transitioned to more traditional brush-and-ink work. In 2008, he was brought on to “Amazing Spider-Man” by former editor Stephen Wacker, a job that opened the doors for his career-making run on “Daredevil” working with writer Mark Waid and his father Joe Rivera as inker.

“We had talked about it before,” says Rivera of collaborating with his father. “But when ‘Daredevil’ came around, as always, I was under a lot of pressure to get it done. That’s when we started working together. He was great. He practiced for a little while, I gave him a few pages ahead of time, and he went straight into it. And then he won [a Harvey] award for best inker that year.”

Paolo and Joe will be reteaming for “The Valiant,” which Paolo will be coloring himself. Paolo will also be teaching his father how to digitally ink over the course of this process, ideally making their future collaborations move quicker.

Hero Complex readers can see preview pages and character designs for “The Valiant” in the gallery above or in larger versions via the links below.

“The Valiant” pages of art: Cover | Pencils | PencilsInk | Ink | Ink

“The Valiant” character design: Immortal Enemy | Geomancer | Bloodshot

In a recent phone interview, Paolo Rivera detailed his reasons for coming to Valiant Comics, his creative process and his goals for “The Valiant.”

Hero Complex: What are the things that attracted you to Valiant Comics and “The Valiant”?

Paolo Rivera: Ever since 2012, when I left Marvel, [editor-in-chief] Warren Simons has been trying to get me over to Valiant. My dad and I went to the Baltimore Comic-Con in 2012, and Warren saw us at the bar and he gave us the hard sell. He’s been trying to get us on something ever since, and I’ve done covers here and there every once in a while, but he put a strong offer in and told me it was going to be Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt, and I was pretty much sold. I was working on a creator-owned project, but I’m putting that on hold because it’s been a while since I actually did real comics. It’s been since 2012. I miss it a lot. I’ve only been doing covers since then, and I really want to get back into it.

HC: What are some of the lessons you learned on “Daredevil” that you are applying to your work on “The Valiant”?

PR: I’d say the biggest lesson was from watching the interaction between Marcos Martin and Mark Waid. Mark would give these scripts, and they’re fairly tight scripts, but Marcos would take it and do all kinds of crazy things that weren’t necessarily in the script. And once I saw that you could do that, then I started taking a few more liberties with my interpretation of the script. In order to do that, you have to have a writer who is willing to do that, for one thing, but is also more concerned with the finished product than their script. If the story can be told, that’s their final goal. And it’s been great with both Jeff and Matt, neither of whom I have met yet, but we’ve been interacting via email and it’s all been great so far. I think that’s the biggest lesson I got from “Daredevil”: You can take more liberties as long as you have a good relationship with the writer.

HC: The character design for the Immortal Enemy is so striking and creepy. Walk us through the design process for a character design like that. What do the writers tell you? Where does your work begin?

PR: It’s a pretty fluid process. The description that I received was just part of the script, and it would say, “He’s kind of plantlike, wispy. Something tall and thin but also totally creepy.” So I just kind of went with that, drawing whatever was in my brain, and every once in a while I’d see something I like. In terms of Immortal Enemy, I drew a bunch of head sketches but we’re pretty much going with the first one I drew, which was the one I inked because it seemed to work. But the other nice thing about the Immortal Enemy is he changes shape and changes his form throughout the ages, so each age, he embodies the fears of that culture. Even though there’s one main design, there’s a lot of freedom within the actual story because of where he appears and when he appears.

HC: How much research have you done for the different time periods?

A design page for "The Valiant." (Rivera/Valiant)

A design page for Bloodshot from “The Valiant.” (Rivera/Valiant)

PR: My research usually just involves a Google search. I can spend as much time as I have where I can still finish the page. I could spend all of my day researching, but at some point I just have to take what I’ve got and start drawing. In the case of Eternal Warrior, with someone who is so steeped in history, I do need to look at all these different cultures and figure out what the period dress is and all that kind of stuff, but at some point, I do have to realize that it’s not straight historical fiction. I can take certain liberties because it doesn’t matter so much as long as it has the spirit of the time and the place. There’s a big sequence in the first book where we’re just following him throughout history and all the tragedy he’s had to endure because he’s charged with this immortal responsibility of protection and he’s known almost nothing but failure. There’s that one main sequence where we see all the things that he’s had to go through.

HC: Is there a character that you enjoy drawing more than the others? Any characters you’re still looking forward to drawing?

PR: I don’t know, it’s all been fun so far. Bloodshot was the one I was most familiar with, so he was the one I gravitated — when Warren first pitched the story to me, he said it’s mainly a Bloodshot story, so when I did the first cover, I actually hadn’t gotten the script yet, so I put Bloodshot as the main character. But now that I’ve started drawing the first issue, they all feature pretty prominently. Maybe I’ll feature Eternal Warrior more in the next one, but Eternal Warrior is the first character we see on the first page of the first issue. It really jumps around a whole bunch, and before the issue’s through, you’ll see X-O Manowar as well and Archer and Armstrong and all those guys.

HC: You hand-letter your own sound effects. What do you feel that brings to the page?

PR: Well the big secret, which I just told one of my editors today, is that it means you don’t have to draw anything that’s behind it. That’s my favorite thing about hand-lettering. But aside from that, the reading experience is something that, as an artist, you’re responsible for, so my layouts always include balloon placement and sound effects, because I feel like I’m the one that’s in charge of making sure that everything reads in the correct order, and that also includes sounds effects.

A layout that I just turned in, the character Eternal Warrior needs to hear a particular sound before responding to it and before that word balloon that includes the response. So it’s pretty important for me to put it in the right spot, to make sure that everything is in the right order. And of course the letterer can do that, but if it’s their responsibility, they have to work around what I’ve already done. And I feel like it’s just much easier if I get it all done myself. And in fact, Joe Caramagna, who I’ve worked with extensively at Marvel, he always told me that he preferred it when the artists did the sound effects themselves because he felt like it was more integrated in the art.

HC: What are some of your personal goals for this project?

PR: Almost for any project, my main goal is to finish it. So that’s been my main goal right now. I just moved so my personal life has been very fluid as of late and I’m just now settling down. My main goal for this project is to hit all my deadlines while not sacrificing quality. And so far, I think I’ve been able to do that. I stopped drawing comics in 2012, I’ve only done covers since then, and so it’s just really important to me to just get back in the swing of things and put a book out. It’s been a while since I’ve been on shelves, and I’d really like to be able to go to the store again and pick up one of my books where I didn’t just do the cover. The next thing I do after “The Valiant” will hopefully be my creator-owned, but we’ll see when we get there.

— Oliver Sava | @LATHeroComplex


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One Response to Paolo Rivera: ‘Daredevil’ artist on ‘Valiant’ return to monthly comics

  1. Jillian Kirby says:

    Paolo is a truly amazing artist, and a humble and beautiful human being. I know my grandfather, Jack Kirby, would have been a huge fan! His assistance in my Kirby4Heroes Campaign, through participation in the Wake Up and Draw event was kind and charitable. I wish him the best of success in all his endeavors. Jillian Kirby

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