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 Mike DeBalfo Cover Artist from Zenescope
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Posted - 03/11/2011 :  11:01:49 AM  Show Profile  Visit Richv1's Homepage  Reply with Quote Bookmark and Share

Mike DeBalfo
Cover Artist for Grimm Fairy Tales
Published by: Zenescope Entertainment
Interviewed by: Richard Vasseur/Jazma VP
Posted: 11/03/2011

Rich: What is the attraction of creating a well drawn cover?

Mike: I'd say effective composition and striking figures are the most important parts of creating a successful cover image. You only have a few moments to grab and keep the viewersí attention so effectively getting them to see the image as a whole real quick is key. Shock value helps too but the over all design is very important.

Rich: How does the process of designing a cover work?

Mike: I'm usually pitched a concept form an editor which can be anywhere from really vague to really detailed in explaining everything they want in the cover. Sometimes we'll throw around ideas to get the best concept possible and I'll do some quick thumbnail sketches to show the layout that I'd like to do.
Once a layout is chosen and approved I'll use a light box to transfer the sketch to a full size 11"x17" art board and start fleshing the cover out with a 3H led pencil, working on perspective and figure proportions. This stage is still pretty sloppy and rough because it has to be approved by the editor as well. In case any corrections or revisions are needed the line work can be easily erased, but everything is still clearly illustrated.
After the rough pencils are approved I'll go in with an HB pencil and start finalizing things by darkening the line work, adding line weights and details. I use lots of different erasers to clean up the left over sketch marks from the rough pencils to get the artwork as clean as possible, since I don't normally work with an inker, for digital coloring.
From there it goes to the colorist who will make it all gleaming and pretty.

Rich: How do you update Little Red Riding Hood in appearance?

Mike: Red is one of the easier characters to do as apposed to say Cinderella, Little Mermaid, etc because as long as you put her in an outfit with a red hood it works. We have one cover coming out where Red is dressed in modern clothing and wearing a red hoodie sweatshirt and it still works.

Personally I prefer the more traditional version so that's what I like to stick with, but it helps to mix modern hair styles or thigh high boots with traditional elements like leather, buckles, wrist cuffs and corsets to bring the character to todayís standards of what is sexy.

Rich: Which has been your favorite Zenescope character to draw?

Mike: I really love Calie Liddel from the Wonderland series. To me she's like the cartoon version of Megan Fox and that never gets tiresome to draw. I used to make wagers with Raven like ďIíll pay for your drinks if you bring Calie back.Ē or ďSo you need a ride to the airport, eh? any Calie covers coming up?Ē Itís never worked but Iíve done a lot of Calie covers because I was such a pain in the ass about it.

Rich: Did you have fun doing the Grimm Fairy Tales Swimsuit Edition?

Mike: Oh, man, yes. I got to do two of the three covers for that issue which was great, and they let me push the boundaries on the San Diego Comicon exclusive cover. That version became one of the top fastest selling Zenescope exclusive in the companyís history. Every copy they brought to the show sold out in three hours on preview night! Unfortunately I wasnít able to fit any of the interior splash pages into my schedule at the time, but they did me right by putting my Tales From Wonderland: Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum cover on the title page inside the book.

Rich: A lot of your covers for Zenescope portray women in sexy outfits do you think it is at all degrading to women?

Mike: We talk about this all the time. haha. No, I don't think it is degrading because they really make an effort not to put the girls in situations of inescapable submission with very little clothing. Yes, there is one cover in Beyond Wonderland where Alice is chained to a wall, but itís not a sex appeal cover, itís a story telling cover. Nine out of ten times the cover girls are either seductive or kicking ass and in both instances the woman has the upper hand on whatever the situation is. Even when sheís being provocative sheís using her attraction to draw in what she wants and if the male/viewer succumbs then he is the weaker willed of the sexes.
I understand that people take things at face value 99% of the time, but if they took the time to read just one Zenescope issue they would find that their books contain strong, determined, willful female characters and that a large portion of the fan base of Zenescope is girls who relate to those women.
People who say that using sex to sell a product is wrong are too superficial for their own good. Go to almost any retail store in America and try to find an ad that doesn't portray sex appeal to sell a product to you. Well figured mannequins and attractive models are used for everything from cell phones and dish detergent to wrist watches. If anything we're just playing into the monster society has created and using to sell a product.

Rich: Have you or would you like to draw an entire comic and not just the cover?

Mike: Yes, and no. I'd love to pick up a book and see my artwork go from cover to cover, but I tend to get bored drawing interior pages. I find myself spending so much time planning and laying a page out that by the time Iím ready to sit down and flesh everything in I'm sick of looking at it. haha. Iíve always considered myself more of a general illustrator rather than a comic book artist so I canít make any promises that Iíll do a full twenty-two page comic any time soon. My real artistic passion is pin-up art so Iíll pursue that for as long as I can.

Rich: How did you become so good at drawing beautiful women?

Mike: Lots and lots of practice. Like most guys drawing hot girls didnít come too natural to me but I knew it was something I wanted to do well. When I was younger what I did for practice is actually trace, or draw the best I could, female characters from pictures my favorite artists did to mimic their style. Basically what I was doing is learning their line construction to make the figure look the way it did and to learn which areas require less line work, but that was only half the battle. Learning to draw from comics creates bad habits because youíre learning from an embellished form of what people really look like, so I had to spend a lot of time drawing pretty girls from magazines like Glamour, Maxim, Playboy, Victoria Secret and anything else that was full of beautiful women to learn proper muscle placement and how the figure accurately bends and flexes. After a while you should be able to develop your own style and just borrow influence from the artists you admire rather than ape them completely.

Rich: Do you like to draw fantasy creatures as well?

Mike: Definitely, I almost enjoy drawing creatures and monsters as much as girls because there are no limits to what you can do with them. Multiple heads, extra limbs, crazy costumes and ridiculous weapons Ėit all stays believable and it works.

Rich: What do you have coming up in the future and what are you currently working on?

Mike: I just finished a cover for Zenescopeís new series Brimstone and an exclusive cover for Grimm Myths and Legends #3 for the C2E2 show in Chicago. Iím also working on a cover for a book called Mocktales and trying my best to bust out some new prints of new art for the Phoenix Comicon in May that I think will knock people on their butts. Also Iím trying to get enough quality material together to release a 2011 sketchbook to follow up the one I released in 2010 but I canít make any promises to that but Iím trying.

Rich: If you could visit the world of a fairy tale which one would it be and why?

Mike: Wow, good question. Theyíre all cool in their own right but Iíve always had a thing for Belle from Beauty and the Beast so I wouldnít mind spending a day in the Beastís shoes. Well, relatively speaking because Iíd still want to be me. It would truly suck to be the Beast.

Rich: How do you spend any free time you have?

Mike: Pretty much all of my free time goes to my daughter. So much effort is spent at the drawing board so itís really important to me that I donít miss out on anything while sheís growing up. I spend a lot of time rough housing, playing on the swing set or watching Nick JR with her. I want her to be proud of what I do and not resentful because Iím working all the time.

Rich: How can someone contact you?

Mike: People can find me on DeviantART:

Iím addicted to Facebook as well: Mike DeBalfo

Or via email:

Rich: Any words for all the fans of your art?

Mike: Thanks for all the support and encouragement I owe you the world! You guys rock!

Richard Vasseur
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