INCLUDING AN UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH ARTIST MICHAEL SHELFER
If you had a chance to read my first couple of articles, you probably realized two things. 1. I love Domino. She is the PERFECT character to me. She cracks me up and I can’t imagine a superpower I’d rather have than LUCK! 2. I’m quite proud of my nerd status but, up until recently (other than my beloved Archie), most of my focus was on books and movies. I was just finding my way into the comic book world.
So, I started making a list of all of the comics I wanted to start with…and I was ready to go! And then…a chance Facebook post sent me down the best path ever…
I got sucked into the world of Domino and I got to start off with one of the artists himself.
Apparently, when a friend tags me in a comment on a post about another friend’s comic that’s coming out…maybe I should be paying attention? Maybe. I saw the tag…thought, “Oh, they must want me to talk to him.” “Sure, send him my email.” First email: “Let’s put something together. Do you think your publisher would mind?” Huh…his publisher is Marvel and I wasn’t even paying attention. #whoops SO, let’s move on from my moment of idiocy and get to the point.
HAVE YOU READ DOMINO?
If you haven’t, and especially if you’re all about Girl Power characters, DO IT!!!!!!!!! I was sucked in from the first issue. First of all, the graphics are top notch and the writing is hilarious. We all look to be entertained when we jump into a series and you can’t be disappointed with lines like:
Shang Chi: “And how did you procure this garment?”
Domino: “Um. Cosplay website. They have a whole section on–never mind.”
Shang Chi: “Please go on.”
Domino: “Well, on super shmexy fighters. The “Trampy Iron Fist” was on sale, but I bought this one.”
And, I’m hooked. Laughing-out-loud-so-loud-I-scared-my-cat level of hooked. The whole series is amazingly well written and filled with incredible artwork. (If you want to add this to your collection I highly suggest it, and, You’re welcome.)
So, let’s go through our checklist of what we love about comics.
Entertaining with both action and hilarity? Check. Storylines that make us want more? Check check. Graphics that will keep you hooked? Check check check.
Now…what about a little something more?
What about that something more that is what draws us into any good story? Most of us who live in a world of books…comics…movies…we start down that path because we find something about the characters that we can identify with. Mutants, supers, villains…whatever your personal niche is…they all have a backstory that makes them who they are. We all know it’s our choices that shape us…but a very close second is the circumstances that gave us the choices we have to work with.
We all know what it feels like to have at least one moment of feeling different…feeling scared…feeling alone…and seeing a character that has a (magnified) experience of our own feelings…well, it’s what gives us that sense of connection to a character.
Example, my love for Domino.
Yes, luck would be the coolest superpower ever…but even the best luck comes with pain. How many times have we gone through life thinking, “I know I’m going to make it through this…but I also know it’s going to hurt.”? I know I have on many different occasions.
So, even Domino’s specific power…I get it.
Luck will be on her side and she will survive anything that gets thrown at her (sometimes literally thrown at her), but that surviving is likely going to hurt. Through that luck and through that survival, she has created her own family. Yup. Been there, too. She’s closed off parts of herself that she only allows her most trusted confidantes to see. Got it. She uses humor to make it through the pain, because life hurts less when you can laugh. Uh-huh.
I get every aspect of who she is…and through that ability to find a character that I can empathize with, voila! I’m no longer alone with those feelings.
So, lucky for me, as soon as I made it through the first 6 issues, the annual dropped the next day.
I didn’t even realize for a couple of weeks, how deeply embedded one of the stories became in my brain.
In the last story of the annual (written by Leah Williams, who may have cemented herself as my favorite comic writer ever), Domino and Nightcrawler have started the MMA (Mindfulness for Mutant Appearances)…a support group for Mutants.
While as absolutely hilarious as the rest of the series, it was also about as real life as it gets. Mutants supporting each other through how different their mutations make them feel. Mutants with visible mutations…mutants who feel like they don’t belong even with the mutants (Stacy X)…mutants who are heroic…mutants who have chosen the other path. As Domino (quite elegantly) stated,
“Because outside of this room—For whatever reason—We all feel alone. Each one of us feels like some kind of freak. Rejects. At least in here we can be alone together.”
And that is the wonder of comics, books, movies…all of it. We all have felt alone. We’ve felt different. We’ve felt misunderstood. I can honestly say I don’t know a single person who hasn’t. In an ironic way, it’s how different we feel on the inside that makes us the most alike.
So, I’d like to give a major kudos to Marvel’s Domino family for finding a way to put that into words and giving us yet another way that comics can ease that feeling.
So, all of that being said, again…I was insanely lucky to get to start to work with Michael to bring you guys the behind the scenes info you all want.
I called the team that works on Domino a family, and I mean it.
Michael was able to fill in for David Baldeón when the help was needed and was accepted as part of that family and his involvement has gone from there. You can hear it when he talks about them. Better than blood family, at times, is the family we create for ourselves. And that kind of familial bond is apparent when you talk to him. Again, comics bringing us together.
Now, on to the artist who actually put up with me being annoying with all of my questions.
I’m sure it’s cliché, but I had to go with the obvious question first. If we’re all being honest with ourselves…when we think of making it big…there are a few parts of that fantasy that are pretty concrete:
My first thought is, I’m sure, the one everyone asks you.
So, you spend your whole life drawing. You spend your whole life with this dream. And then, one day, you get to go to the comic store…and, not only is there a pile of MARVEL comics right there with your name on the cover…but people are lining up specifically to get you to sign them. How does that feel? Is it surreal? Is it a moment of, “Finally!”? Is there that maniacal hope of the hot chick who was mean to you in high school coming in to ask for your autograph? (Just keepin’ it real….I would TOTALLY be hoping for that…)
Michael (Who is obviously less scarred by high school than some of us):
“I wouldn’t say people are just lining up or that there’s a pile of my books. But it has been a bit surreal at times. That feeling fades though and gets replaced with at least a tiny sense of accomplishment, which I appreciate more than any other feeling I get from this kind of work. Also, there have been one or two girls from back in high school who stopped into a signing but I don’t think they were ever mean to me back then, haha.”
HOW does this happen?
How did you go from a kid who was hanging out with his friends at Waffle House and drawing away to “Yeah…I draw for Marvel…”? And, if you had any advice to give to that kid you were, what would it be?
Michael: “Lots of drawing. That’s about it. Drawing almost every day and trying not to get discouraged from the seemingly endless amount of rejection letters. Go to college, pick a different profession. Before I knew it, this was the only thing I wanted to do. Still is. But there’s an alternate reality out there where that me went and became someone else.”
With a lot of comics, you have multiple artists drawing the same character throughout (Domino Annual #1 for a perfect example. 5 pages were yours, the rest were other artists.).
Do you have to focus on creating continuity in these drawings? Or is it second nature, as an artist, to already see what the character is “supposed to look like” in your head so that continuity just naturally flows?
Michael: “In a book with that many artists, there’s no real way to avoid everyone’s work looking different which is fine.
Continuity is important because there were some elements from story to story that tied over. Like when Domino is searching through her truck and you see Crimson Dynamo’s helmet. It was in another story later. Also we have to make sure we’re drawing the same version of that helmet, as there have been different ones.”
Were you a Domino fan before working on this most recent series?
Michael: “Oh sure. Not like a super fan or anything, but I have her first appearance somewhere and I always enjoyed her character popping up in other books over the years. She’s been around a while.”
If Marvel came to you tomorrow and said, “Michael, you can draw any of our characters that you want. Just choose.” Who would be your FIRST thought?
Michael: “Right off the top of my head? Captain Marvel. But if I had time to consider it I probably wouldn’t be able to choose.”
There have been some SERIOUS laugh out loud moments in the Domino series of comics.
Which led me to wonder: Which came first the chicken or the egg? Does the writer flesh out the narrative first and the artist works from there? Or is this the dialogue a team effort based on the vision of everyone involved?
Michael: “For something from Marvel, DC, and some others, it’s usually the writer’s show, working with the editor.
Artists get the approved script after that. If we’re talking about creator-owned books that have at two creators or a team then they are more likely to both work in tandem with each other on different aspects of the story.”
After getting a look at some of your work, what I’m dying to know…Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects you have.
Michael: “Not yet? I really don’t know if I can. But I’ll let you know.”
Well, after getting a look at some of Michael’s artwork, I doubt I’ll be the only one keeping an eye out for the name Shelfer on the covers of books. I’ll keep you guys up to date as we find out more about the Domino series AND Michael’s upcoming projects!