Mahmud Asar, artist on some of the most beloved issues of X-Men Red and Supergirl, is currently tearing it up on Conan the Barbarian from Marvel Comics. While Asrar has always shown a confident range in his work, his art is most often identifiable by the strong presence of his bodies, so foregrounded that they almost pop like 3-D special fx from his textured backgrounds.
Half Keith Giffen, half Jim Lee. There is a technical aspect to Asrar’s work. He feels like an artist who knows the tools available to him, and the patience to apply them as necessary, which is what initially inspired me to reach out for an interview…
Travis Hedge Coke: What are your favorite materials to make art with, now?
Mahmud Asrar: I initially start with layouts which are done digitally. I use Clip Studio Paint for most of that. I finish my pages traditionally. I use ordinary HB pencils, Pentel brush pens, some liners like Artline, Uni Pin, Molotow or Microns. Also some Rotring white ink for corrections or effects.
Hedge Coke: Is there anything you emphasize now in your art, or pull away from, that you once would emphasize?
Asrar: I care more about the general balance of the page in terms of line weight, spot blacks and shading. Instead of line quality, that was much more important for me before, I’m more concerned about depth and values.
Hedge Coke: If you have a better way to illustrate something, than what is scripted, do you do yours or what was written?
Asrar: Usually the writers I work with know what they’re doing so I don’t actually need to change much in the layout of a page. I do occasionally make small changes or additions to make the page more entertaining for me. It’s usually adding something to enhance pacing or perhaps the angle or distance of a composition (if noted down by the writer).
Hedge Coke: What comics are you reading now?
Asrar: I read very little comics lately to be honest. I follow many books for the art but I don’t have the time to read too many. I read whatever interests me at a particular moment. It could be an indie book or maybe a manga. These days I read European albums mostly, I guess.
Hedge Coke: Is there anything comics talent and/or the comics audience can do to make the field better and better to us all?
Asrar: I think comics in general could be more accessible. Mostly in terms of stories and jumping on points. In this regard, as with my reading preferences lately, I think comics can be a bit more self contained or more straightforward in terms of publishing. Less confusing. I do understand a lot of things with the way they’re being put out are made so for a reason but it would perhaps be better to think things in terms of actually growing the comics readership overall. Again in this regard, more inclusive stories would be good as well for all kinds of readers of all ages.
One thing that I would personally appreciate, is to change the perception of comics authorship and present books as storytelling not only by writing but with a creative team of storytellers.
Of course I feel both of these subjects are really hard to achieve on a monthly schedule.
Hedge Coke: What are the biggest influences on your current work?
Asrar: Lately, with Conan, my original comics inspiration, John Buscema is yet again my biggest influence. I’m studying his work with new eyes and trying to learn more about the craft. There are plenty other influences I have that are too numerous to name though.
Hedge Coke: What do you do, when you are not working?
Asrar: I like to take trips to places with my wife and son. So if we get an opportunity we do that lately. I’m also a big gamer, so I spend time gaming. Mostly on the PC and some on the PS4.
Hedge Coke: Is there anyone you would love to work with, who you have not yet?
Asrar: I’ve been lucky in recent times that I’ve got to work with almost all of my favourite people in comics, as writers or colourists. I wouldn’t mind making something from the ground up with some people though. Also I would think it would be nice to do something with Alan Moore some day.
Hedge Coke: Every artist has something they are less comfortable or eager to draw. For some it’s cars, for others dogs, dinosaurs, feet. For you?
Asrar: I guess team sports related stuff and people on bleachers. I guess as that’s something I don’t enjoy in real life, it kind of translates to my work as well. I’d rather avoid a football match for example.
Hedge Coke: What is the last thing you saw, or saw done, in a medium other than comics, and thought, “I want *that* in a comic”?
Asrar: This is a bit difficult to answer. I immediately think of movies initially. Like imagery in Blade Runner 2049. However, I feel certain music, sometimes combined with lyrics, can inspire me to tell stories. It can evoke many kinds of sequences or entire storylines even.
For all Kinds: An Interview With Mahmud Asrar
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