Conducted by Aaron Alexander
Steve Lieber is a true master of the comics form. With such landmark titles as Whiteout, Underground, Shooters, Road to Perdition: 2, and more, he probably does not need an introduction. He is also a founding member of Periscope Studio, a collective of illustrators, cartoonists, and writers working out of a shared studio in Portland, Oregon. If you aren’t familiar with his work, head on over to stevelieber.com and get ready to be floored! Then read my conversation with Steve, which was conducted via email in June of 2014.
Aaron Alexander: I always appreciated that in his Shop Talk interviews, Will Eisner would often start out with the “pen-ultimate” question, so let’s start there, for the aspiring creators and nosy professionals who might be reading this: What tools do you use?
Steve Lieber: Analog: Staedtler/Mars mechanical pencil. Winsor & Newton series 7, number 2 brush with india ink. Pentel’s “pocket brush” and “color brush.” Micron pens.
Digital: Cintiq 21UX. Manga Studio 5 EX.
AA: Let’s talk a little about your time at the Kubert School. Was it as demanding as it sounds? How much do you attribute your time there to your later success? How much did you interact with Joe himself?
SL: It was a lot of work: ten classes a week. Each with several hours of homework. My classmates and I all got a lot better and more professional in a short time. I credit my time at JKS with my ability to draw professionally. I went in there knowing almost nothing and came out able to support myself as an illustrator. I had one class a week with Joe in both my second and third year, and he also made himself available after class to answer questions and give feedback on other stuff we were working on. He was incredibly good at figuring out what changes would make a picture or a panel sequence work.
SL: I’m really happy with Superior Foes of Spider-Man. It’s the first time in two decades of of making comics that I’ve been asked to be funny, and it’s an enormous pleasure to hear from readers that they’re actually laughing out loud.
AA: Out of all your early influences, whose work do you still go to today, either for inspiration or to help solve a drawing problem?
SL: David Mazzuchelli, Alex Toth, and Jorge Zaffino.
AA: Do you have any desire to write any long form work for yourself? I remember a one-page autobiographical piece you did a while back about your relationship with your father that appeared in Portland Monthly. It was really well done.
SL: I’d like to do some writing someday, but I don’t have anything planned.
AA: Most people (myself included) believe you handled the pirating of Underground phenomenally, given the circumstances. Did this in any way change your general take on the ever-present digital-vs-print debate and the “future” of comics?
SL: Not really. I’ve always known that anything that can be scanned and shared will be scanned and shared. It’s up to publishers and individual artists to figure out how to convince readers that it’s in their, the readers’, best interest to support an artist rather than just downloading the work for free from a torrent or file-sharing site. We get the culture we pay for.
AA: Who are you reading (comics and non-comics) right now?
AA: You excel at the “human” moments in comics. What do you think is the key to making these types of quiet scenes and action work in a visual narrative?
SL: Just being interested in the little details of human interaction, how they play out and what they can say about a character.
AA: Where would you say you are focused on going as an artist? Are there certain writers you are hoping to work with soon, a story you are dying to draw, a technique you want to experiment with?
SL: I’m never really focussed on going anywhere as an artist. I just want to tell the story I’m working on as well as I can. There are a bunch of writers I’d love to work with someday: Mark Waid, G. Willow Wilson, Charles Soule, Fred Van Lente, James Asmus, Gene Yang, and Dylan Meconis. And from outside of comics, if Victor LaValle, Tobias Buckell, Maureen McHugh, or Nalo Hopkinson are ever up for collaborating on a GN, I would be all over that.
AA: Finally, let’s talk about what you are currently working on, and what’s coming soon, so we can all be sure not to miss anything.
SL: My current schedule is all Superior Foes of Spider-Man from Marvel. After that, there are a couple of possibilities, but nothing I’d want to talk about in public.
AA: Thanks again, Steve!
SL: My pleasure!
Be sure to check out Steve’s art and visual storytelling: