Thursday, July 21, 2011

Questions 41: Paul Guinan

Paul Guinan is a Chicago-born multimedia author/illustrator whose projects range in size and content from business cards to wall murals. In 2000, Paul created Boilerplate, and began chronicling the Victorian robot's adventures.   His first freelance gig was inking Tom Sutton on Grimjack, subsequent work includes contributions to Aliens, The Terminator, The Punisher, Justice League, Ghost, DHP, Barb Wire, Andrew Vachss' Hard Looks, and many entries in DC’s The Big Book of... series.  He's drawn spot illustrations for McGraw-Hill and Adidas.   He has done photography and Photoshop graphics for clients such as Oregon Public Broadcasting, the WB TV network, and national magazines.

Paul began his comic book career as a production artist at First Comics, retouching Lone Wolf and Cub art. In 1988 after noticing the absence of women in comics as lead characters, Paul and wife-to-be Anina Bennett began developing comic's first female action hero. Together they hatched the science-fiction series Heartbreakers, which has since proven its appeal to both male and female readers. Long before cloning made mainstream headlines, Heartbreakers explored the social fallout of genetic engineering. The title's latest incarnation is as a series of self-contained Heartbreakers Superdigest volumes in paperback format, with color feature stories, guest artists, and activity pages.

In 1998 Paul co-created Chronos, a monthly title from DC Comics, with writer John Francis Moore. Paul pencilled eleven issues of the series, which was the last launched by the now departed, much-missed Archie Goodwin. In his feistier moments, Paul claims that Chronos retains bragging rights to the most extensively realized background art in an American monthly comic.

In 2002, Paul joined with other DC Comics creators such as David Hahn, Steve Lieber and Terry Dodson to form Mercury Studios which later became Periscope Studios.

Doug Dorr:   What projects are you working on currently?
I’m putting the finishing touches on another collaboration with my wife, Anina Bennett, called Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention. It’s a follow-up to Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel, using a similar format and premise: a fictitious protagonist taking part in real historical events. Frank Reade also showcases a lost legacy of American science fiction, with restored 19th-century dime novel illustrations and story excerpts. The title character is friends with Archie Campion, so Boilerplate makes a few cameos in the new book.
DD:   What is your artistic process?
It usually starts with a visual idea that I build a story around. Boilerplate developed out of an image I had in my head, of a robot standing with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders after the Battle of San Juan Heights.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend?
Family Man by Dylan Meconis, Underground by Parker and Lieber, and Gingerbread Girl by Tobin and Coover. OK, they’re books by my fellow members of Periscope Studio, but working on Boilerplate and Frank Reade for the last five years meant that I haven’t been able to keep up with many graphic novels. I spent a lot of time doing historical research, reading books like James Bradley’s Imperial Cruise. I can recommend a couple of heavily illustrated biographies that have similar visual sensibilities to Boilerplate. Time-Life did 130-page magazine-sized softcovers about Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin that would definitely appeal to graphic novel readers.

DD:   What Comic/ Trade would you recommend to someone new to comics?
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is ground zero. After that, maybe the Hernandez brothers’ Love & Rockets. First I would find out what kind of stories that reader enjoys in other media—prose, movies, etc.—then try to recommend something in line with their sensibilities.

DD:   What skill would you like to learn?
I have yet to learn 3D modeling and rendering.

DD:   What's the most important thing you've learned?
As an artist, the most important goal is to create work that speaks to you personally and springs from a genuine interest in your subject. Don’t try to formulate a piece that you think will be commercially successful if you don’t care about the characters, the story, the themes. Consciously or not, most people will recognize the difference between a mercenary work and one that comes from the heart.

DD:   Do you have a collection? If so, what is one of the items you're most proud of?
I have a room full of action figures and 1/6th-scale figures, along with related vehicles. The collection I’m proudest of, though, would be my Frank Reade dime novels. Frank Reade was America’s first science fiction hero, and Frank Reade Library, published in the 1880s, was the first science fiction series ever. The covers and other engravings from the series are stunningly beautiful. In Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention, these images are being published for the first time in more than a century—elaborate helicopter airships, electric land vehicles and submarines, and globe-trotting adventures. I’m tremendously proud to help resurrect this lost aspect of science fiction history!

DD:   What is your favorite genre of Comics?
I like a variety of comics. If I had to pick a favorite genre, I guess I’d say adventure fiction, which covers a lot of ground. In particular, I appreciate comics that take advantage of the medium to depict things that would be difficult to achieve in other media, due to budget and logistic constraints. Epic science fiction and historical dramas are my favorite examples.

DD:   Do you have an Ipad? If so what do use it for the most.
Nope. As a cinephile, I don’t like watching movies or TV shows on a small screen, so I think I would mainly use an iPad for web surfing and reading.

DD:   What is your favorite TV show/ movie?
I, Claudius and Deadwood are a couple of favorite TV shows. Seven Samurai, Dr. Strangelove, and Wages of Fear are some favorite movies. It’s a long list—I keep a public version on our web site at

DD:   How does the Portland comics culture shapes your work?
Portland has a unique comics culture. There are so many comic book creators here now, I’m surprised we haven’t reached critical mass and formed a small planet. Yet the scale of the city is relatively small, which makes for a more tightly knit comics community than in other urban centers with top-level published creators. At any given event or social gathering, you’re likely to run into mainstream superhero talent as well as underground/alternative creators. It’s energizing and keeps everyone on their game. In a way, I was inspired by the local talent pool to push the boundaries of the visual narrative in Boilerplate.

DD:   What was your first comic convention?
It was when I was a little kid back in Chicago: the Chicago Comicon, held at the Playboy Building. Years before it moved to Rosemont, let alone before Wizard took it over.

DD:   What is your favorite part of comic conventions?
Meeting the fans, that’s what it’s all about.

DD:   If you weren’t doing comics what would you do?
Film or television production. I consider myself a storyteller above all. No matter what visual medium I’m working in, from illustration to photography, even my hobby of building dioramas, I always construct some kind of narrative.

DD:   Do you have a favorite restaurant that you would recommend?
Portland has so many good eateries! An old favorite of mine is Il Piatto on SE Ankeny. Rustic, romantic, you can walk in wearing either a tux or motorcycle jacket and still feel appropriately dressed.
DD:   How long have you lived in Portland, what made you choose Portland?
Anina came to PDX to work as an editor at Dark Horse. We moved here from Chicago in 1991, right after getting married, and wound up buying a wonderful house in a great neighborhood. Over the years we fell in love with the place, and this is our home now.

DD:   What is your favorite part of Portland?
Southeast, especially the Hawthorne District. That’s why we bought a home there.

DD:   Where in Portland/ Oregon would you most like to visit?
The beauty of Oregon is its wildly varied terrain. Desert and forest, mountains and plains, a coastline with beaches and cliffs, rivers and hot springs, massive obsidian flows and lava tubes—it’s got practically everything! I can’t choose just one spot, but Anina and I are overdue for a visit to the coast, so maybe a return trip to Astoria. It’s got an excellent maritime museum.

DD:   Would you like to write/Illustrate for another media? or conversely, how would you feel about writing a comic of a character from a different media, for example, Dr. Who, James Bond? What would you explore?
The Boilerplate movie deal with Paramount and J.J. Abrams has given us the opportunity to pitch some of our other projects to Hollywood, which is exciting. As to other properties, only Doctor Who would interest me, since it’s about time travel and I’m such a huge history buff. I’d probably get the Doctor involved in a historical epic, or as epic as the BBC’s budget would allow!

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