His name is Michael DeBalfo. He was born and raised in Hewitt, New Jersey among his older brother and younger sister. He graduated from West Milford High School and furthered his education at The School Of Communications Arts in Raleigh, NC where he studied computer animation. Shortly after attended 2 years at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ, and studied all things art, but focused mainly on comic book illustration.
For years he wanted to be an animator until he discovered the art of Kevin Eastman and later on Jim Lee, which drove his career goal in a different direction. A direction towards comic books.
After finishing two years at the Kubert School, he parted ways with the east coast and moved to Arizona.
Here he is in a picture left to right; with his wife Mary and friend, our very own Six Shooter Jesse James:
Some time later he was discovered by Zenescope scribe Raven Gregory, by a piece of fan art he had displayed in a local comic book store. They got in contact and stayed acquainted for several years before he started having Mike do test covers for the Wonderland series at Zenescope Entertainment.
He is now part of a small breed of artists who have successfully broken into the industry as a cover artist, and has since then become the company’s first artist to sign on exclusively. In roughly 2 years he has illustrated more than 48 covers for Zenescope and other independent publishing companies such as Big Dog Ink, Moonstone, and Jay Company Comics.
As many of you know, Zenescope Entertainment produces most of my favorite series out there and Mike’s work is incredible! Check out these covers:
Michael is personally one of my very favorite artists. He is uber talented and puts a lot of time and dedication into his artwork. Mike is an all around nice guy and if you haven’t met him, I hope that you will the next chance you get. His super gorgeous wife Mary is usually there to accompany him and if you miss her, you’re just not looking.
These are his pencils to his latest cover out in previews for “Hack/Slash meets Zombies Vs. Cheerleaders”. We are lucky enough to be the FIRST to post the un-colored version. I was so excited to get this from Mike! I love Hack/Slash and for him to do a cover. WOOT! Here is your preview friends:
My interview with Mike DeBalfo:
ComicBooked.com: We learned from your bio who inspired you as an adult to draw but where you already drawing and inspired as a child? By whom?
Mike DeBalfo: I’ve always been a day dreamer as long as I can remember all the way up to even now, so I’ve always drawn as well. As a kid I didn’t really think about inspiration or influence it just seemed to come pretty natural to me, but looking back and knowing what I do now, I was heavily influenced by Chuck Jones who was the director of many of the Looney Tunes shorts I watched as a kid for years. Though it wasn’t intentional I remember trying my best to mimic that style in particular and draw the characters the way his animators did before I really got involved in any other type of stylized illustration. I kind of wish now that I had been more of Disney princess fan because if I had gotten a good grasp and aped that classic Disney style as a kid I’d probably be a better artist now. Haha. I also discovered Boris Valejo’s work pretty young too. Maybe around 8 or 9 years old, but of course is work was way too complex to really comprehend or absorb much influence from at such a young age. I do remember collecting a large part of a trading card series he was involved with though because his paintings were just so awesome I had o have them around. Plus sometimes there were boobs in his art and what kid can pass up fun bags on a trading card?
ComicBooked.com: What brought you to Arizona , do you like Arizona , and what do you miss about New Jersey ?
Mike DeBalfo: I really do like Arizona a lot. I don’t see myself moving back east again unless I strike oil and need a summer home on Fire Island or something.
I moved here because I really felt a need for a fresh start on life since things in New Jersey had just been getting more than a little stale. At 22 I’d been working the same dead end lumber yard job since 9th grade and most of my friends moved away for college or we just grew apart, so felt like I was living a conscience coma of sorts. Also rent and property costs are through the roof ridiculous in northern New Jersey. And is just flipping cold. I’m willing to say it’s almost uninhabitable for 9 months of the year.
But the main reason I left was because I met my wife who was living here in Phoenix at the time. I came out to visit for New Years once and I remember, before leaving New Jersey, we spent an hour on the tarmac deicing the wings on the plane because the wind chill was like -15 degrees. When I landed in Phoenix that same day it was close to 75 degrees in the shade so… Between the great girl and the wonderful winter weather it wasn’t a hard choice which tie to cut, man. Yeah, you get maybe 4 months of blistering heat, but there’s A/C everywhere you go and the other 8 months are undeniably beautiful.
I get home sick once in a while but there’s a lot going for me and my family in Arizona. I lived in the same New Jersey house on the same Jersey street my entire life so there’s a lot of memories and places I’ll never get to go to or see again, but I honestly only miss a handful of things from Jersey. First would be some old friends but I already know they’ve all moved to other parts of the country. I paid a visit a few years back and it was sad to see other people living in my friends’ homes and how yuppies are taking over everything. Everyone drives $50,000 SUV’s and pick-up trucks and claim to be rednecks. It’s very strange.
I grew up on a really nice lake though in a small mountain top town where we always had a boat and a jet skis so life was very pleasant sometimes, so moving to the complete opposite of that can be hard to accept. Also you can’t beat the food in the NY/NJ area. Everything in Arizona is very cookie-cutter so I do miss the originality of Jersey’s ambiance like 24 hour dinners, those awesomely gritty rock-and-roll bars, and being able to casually race down winding backwoods streets for hours without hitting a single red light, but that’s all really just superficial to me now. I am the most popular kid from my high school now though so that will always be cool.
ComicBooked.com: How do you like working for Zenescope Entertainment and what made you choose to be the first to sign exclusively with them?
Mike DeBalfo: The Zenescope guys are great, they really took me in with open arms. The content of their stories really drew me towards them as well. I’ve always been a horror buff, so to add that element with the strong attractive female leads they portray in their books it makes a hard gig to turn down. We’ve all meshed pretty well from the beginning and they’ve never done me any wrong so I owe Ralph and Joe a large token of gratitude for any success I may acquire during my art career in illustration.
ComicBooked.com: What comic books do you read and which comic is your all time favorite?
Mike DeBalfo: I’ve always been the artwork appreciating type but once in a while something comes along I just have to read all the way through. I really enjoyed Millar and McNiven’s recent “Nemesis” miniseries. I loved how at the end of each issue you close the back cover and think, “wow… that was f-ed up. It can’t get any crazier than that” but in the next issue it did. Definitely a good page turner. And Steve is always a homerun hitter. His story telling abilities are unbelievable to say the least.
On a complete opposite note I just started reading “Axe Cop” which was a cult web comic recently put to print in a trade paperback. It’s written (for the most part) by a 5 year-old and illustrated by his 29 year old brother. It’s friggin’ hilarious.
All time faves go to Jim Lee era X-Men. Jim’s run on those books defined a generation on how comics are drawn. He had everything down to such an impeccable rhythm it’s still awesome to look back and admire. Gen-13, Danger Girl, Spawn issues 1-100 were great and Mirage Studios original Ninja Turtle series. I may have said it before but the “Leonardo” one-shot in that series has some one of the best fight sequences between Leonardo and about 100 ninja Foot soldiers and use of storytelling with no words I’ve seen in an indie book. …ever. Also, not to polish anyone’s knob, but the Zenescope “Wonderland” trilogy was fantastic. Wonderfully twisted stuff. Calie quickly became my top favorite female comic lead.
ComicBooked.com: I’ve been lucky enough to meet you and become a friend and will always be a fan, but for those that haven’t met you, what is one thing you would want fans to know about you aside from the comic industry?
Mike DeBalfo: Aww, Brie. Haha. That’s a hard question to answer because comics has really consumed my entire life over the last few years. I love music though. It’s at the heart of everything I do so if you’re a music buff we definitely have something in common aside from a love for half naked cartoon women. For the longest time I wanted to be a professional musician but I’m neither cool enough nor musically talented enough to succeed beyond the comforts of my living room. I was one step above Bill and Ted in Wyld Stallyns only because I could actually play an instrument.
Also I’m a bit of a gear head. I love exotic cars and driving stupid fast. I don’t do it as often as I used to now that I’m a husband and father, but once in a while I still get the urge. The only change now is that I do it in a Mazda6 with a car seat (empty of course) in the back seat. …this urge is also usually driven by music.
ComicBooked.com: Speaking of fans, as a cosplay model…I’ve met a few fans that we’re just way out there and appeared a bit creepy. What’s your craziest fan story and most uncomfortable moment with a fan?
Mike DeBalfo: Oh, man… there’s tales I can, can’t and shouldn’t tell…
Rumor has it, per Raven Gregory and E.bas, a fan at last years’ Wizard World Philly show a fan came up to our booth wearing a trench coat. They tell me she opened her coat for a moment and she was wearing the football outfit from my Escape From Wonderland #6: Chicago Bears variant cover with the torn up jersey and all. I was conveniently away from the booth at this time, but Eric says he has a picture on his digital camera. As much as I’d like to believe it true no proof has been shown so it remains in the theoretically awesome vault to this day almost a year later.
One time at my first signing with Nei, Raven and Eric a fan drove 2 hours from Tucson to see us at a local store. She walked in and about passed out with excitement shouting, “Nei! Raven! Oh my god, Eric!!” she gathered herself abit and paused. “…where’s Mike?” she said. I sort of nodded and replied with “right here”. She trots over and goes, “oh my gosh you’re so little!” haha. I started drinking more milk after that.
Then of course there was your “Phoenix or Bust” cosplay which is still pretty humbling. I never really had anyone recreate something I drew before that, and the fact that the cover concept was the first Zenescope let me come up with on my own so that made it extra special.
My favorite was an incident at San Diego Comic Con this year with me and Raven, but I’m not going to spill the beans because it’s something we’ve got to do again. All I will say is that San Diego has some of the best weather we’ve ever seen.
ComicBooked.com: We know that comic books are uber awesome and keep all of us at times glued in to reading with the great stories/characters they offer, all in all…helping promote literacy and keep people reading and their minds open to what’s going to happen next. But for some, art may draw them to a book instead of the story. As an artist and not a writer, what could you say to encourage someone to grab a comic and start reading today?
Mike DeBalfo: First and foremost comic books are a visual medium. The artwork is what first inspired me to pick one up and thumb through the pages. If you’re an art guru you’re going to find something you really really like sooner or later and grow to appreciate the history behind comics. Story telling with pictures is without a doubt the oldest form of literature. Cavemen drew on walls to tell tales of victorious hunts, the Japanese did the same with scrolls to relay stories on conquest, and seamen who traveled the globe in Columbus’s time did the same with tattoos. They believed by having images of sirens, mermaids and other elements of supernatural tales scribed on their bodies would bring them luck, health and fortune. Narrative art has a wealth of history and comic books are our contribution to the supernatural human story. Comic books are simply put the next link in a long chain of human history.
Over time movie formats like Beta, VHS, DVD, and Blue Ray which also contribute will become obsolete with the possibility that perhaps someday they may not be viewable do to advances in technology. For instance there’re an entire generation right now who have never pushed “play” on a VCR or heard of Laser Disc. There’s a lot of movies on VHS that will never be converted to DVD so this generation will never know about some great films from before their time. Physical books never go out of style so the information will always be available to those willing to search for it.
ComicBooked.com: Mike thank you so much for your friendship and for letting me interview you for our site. You’re one amazing artist and I can’t wait to see more of what your talent will bring in the future. We will continue to purchase your work and display it on our walls in our home and in our comic collections. Lastly, is there anything you would like to tell your fans?
Mike DeBalfo: I don’t know what it is about what I do that keep you guys coming back for more, but I’ll keep doing what I do. You’re a thousand gallons of fuel for a burning creativity. I adore each and every one of you!
There ya go friends…Mr. Mike DeBalfo! What an awesome guy right?! I think so. My favorite cover of course is the “Phoenix or Bust” shown here:
You can find my version of his cosplay on my site but right now go find Mike. You can find him on facebook and deviant art. I’ve attached some of his links so that you can follow him as a fan if you haven’t yet.
Deviant Art: http://squirrelshaver.deviantart.com/
Keep your eyes where they should be…in a comic! –take care friends! Smiles, Brieanna Brock
A delight! Learning that DeBalfo's enthusiasm and fan art help get him discovered surely will be inspiration to other hopeful artists.
That's my favorite drawing is detonated "Phoenix or Bust." Mike is pretty great!
Glad to have brought this here! Loved that he also has an interest in music aside from comics.
Tis mine as well! Glad you like his work. Check out his deviant art to see a lot more =)
His work is fantastic! Thanks for spreading the good news about Mike!
Phoenix or Bust is awesome!
You're very welcome Sean! I love his work too and the Phoenix or Bust is my all time favorite. How did you like his Hack/Slash cover?
really wasnt sure who he was till now ive seen and admired hes work, great artist and zenescope was smart for sign him when they did. thanks bri for all the info and i love phoenix or bust your cosplay was great.
Thanks for the compliment Ted. I admire his work to and am very glad I got the chance to get this interview to all the fans. Stay tuned for more in the future. =)
I really enjoyed this interview, loved the story about how he ended up in Phoenix, this has happened to alot of us, love and good weather, to sum it all up HEAT
Great interview Brieanna, Mike is a super talented guy, his pencil work is very tight and clean and his covers are great. Keep up the good work here 😉
Thanks Ray! WE all love Mike. Glad I could bring this interview. He is one amazing talented guy. I promise to bring more in the future!
It seems we all have huh! Crazy! Now that I'm in Vegas, I guess I'll have another story about ending up somewhere else but I did enjoy Phoenix. =)
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