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Left-Handed Wisdom with JORGE MOLINA

CBY contributor Andrew Irvin welcomes none other than Jorge Molina into the Yeti Cave to discuss ZURDO: The Art of Jorge Molina, which is currently on ZOOP. Take a deep dive into Jorge's process and let your eyeballs feast on this gorgeous artwork.


COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you for joining us today, Jorge. It is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to chat with you about your exemplary body of work. How’s your day going?

JORGE MOLINA: Thanks! Pleasure to chat about this exiting new venture, it’s been a lot of fun so far.

CBY: I'm glad you're enjoying things! So to start, this beautiful collection you’ve put together is called Zurdo: The Art of Jorge Molina. Given this nickname and its meaning in Spanish, I take it you’re left-handed. Not every southpaw gets slated with a nickname over being left-handed, though, so can you relate who first started calling you Zurdo and how you came to appreciate it and claim it?

JM: It’s funny, but it all started as my gamertag on my first Xbox. It was rare to have your name displayed there. Everyone had all these crazy gamertags like “demon-slayer69” or “xXskull_crusherXx” so I picked “XzurdoX” just to have something other than the lame “Jorge”. Now that I look back at it, it’s so funny, like I wanted to have a cool name but felt I still had to preserve some identity. After many years of COD matches, all my friends started calling me by my gamertag and that stuck.

CBY: Given your prodigious body of work and the extreme level of detail you achieve with each of your pieces, I definitely want to dig into your technique and process further. I’ve long heard complaints from lefties in my life about ink getting smudged across palms when writing across the page. I looked up other left-handed comic illustrators and you’re definitely in legendary company including Joe Shuster, Brian Bolland, and Todd McFarlane, among others. Have you had any mentors or colleagues to bond with, and learn from, over the unique challenges left-handed illustration poses? How do you find your drawing technique may differ from your peers because of being left-handed?

JM: Wow! That’s pretty damn good company, good to know.

I’ve always struggled with smudging. My drawing tended to be very messy and dirty, and there was a period of my life when that was a constant issue and I just needed to figure out how to get rid of it. In art school everyone had pretty clean drawings and mine were always dirty so I felt I was doing something wrong. After years of practice I learned to avoid drawing over my lines and also used a blank paper sheet under my left hand so whenever I did go over I wouldn’t smudge as much, I used to lick the side of my hand so the paper would stick, messy trick. Nowadays, I use a drawing glove to avoid smudging and it’s a must for me - no more licking.

CBY: Reading up to make sure I wasn’t re-treading worn territory with my questions, I stumbled upon this interview with Hugo Froes from 2011. Digging a bit further into your impeccable technique, back then you mentioned using a Wacom Cintiq for penciling digitally (which I'm sure also alleviated smudging issues) - a dozen years later, how has your utilization of tools and technology evolved? What tips and tricks have you picked up in the intervening period that have helped you streamline and refine your process, and what would you tell your 2011 self given the lessons you’ve learned in your professional work since?

JM: I think my process is still the same. It took me a couple of years to find my workflow. At the beginning I would do all these crazy detailed “layouts” for my comic pages just because I wanted to impress my editors, which was stupid. It took a lot of time since I had to blow it up on a printer and then lightbox it - it consumed a lot of time. After some exploration, I landed on what I consider works best for me. I do all my penciling digitally on a Wacom Cintiq (crazy I’ve been using these for so long) then I do a very light print of that on the type of paper I want to use. If this is for a comic book cover or interior, then I use Canson comic book paper. If I plan to use watercolors or any wet medium I print on watercolor paper (recently I use Arches hot press and I’m loving it).

I think it was necessary to explore various methods to find the one that was right for me and I would encourage any artist out there to try different methods. You end up picking up certain elements or techniques that you implement in your workflow. In the end it’s about creating the best production process FOR YOU. So my process might not work on another artist, but still you can learn something from it.

CBY: I am always absolutely taken with your rendering - light sourcing and value details in your illustrations add amazing depth and realism to what are dynamic and thoughtfully composed shots. Beyond your illustration tools and materials, what sort of techniques do you utilize to set up your shots? What sort of reference lighting set-up do you use, and do you employ live models, or figurines, or 3D modeling/rendering software?

JM: I’m obsessed with rendering, I love it. The whole experience of bringing that 2D surface to a 3D level by just adding values is something I find magical and special. Not to say it’s always smooth sailing. Sometimes it’s a constant battle of love and hate to the piece only to trust that with enough effort and time the result will be a pleasant one. I would say that’s 85% of the time.

I tend to prepare before laying down the line art. I use anything I can like 3D models, photo reference or looking at other artists' work. For 3D I use a very helpful app on my Ipad called MagicPoser - it’s great for human form and especially when trying to do tricky camera shots with weird poses. For my backgrounds, I tend to use Sketchup and I’ve been learning to do Kitbashes on Blender. My next Batman Black and White story has all my backgrounds from stuff I modeled or Kitbashed. I feel it brings things to another level since you have a better way to control dimensions. For photo reference, I spend a lot of time on Pinterest to look for references or inspiration and I sometimes take the photos myself. I have a basic lighting kit here and I either take pictures of myself or have someone pose for it. I can’t stress enough how important all this preparation is. It brings more credibility to the final image and makes your life easier. Although I do enjoy sometimes to solo it, but it’s rare.

CBY: It's great to hear you're working on more Batman material! From that 2011 interview, it was also amazing to see how many of the professional goals you mentioned then have since come to fruition. Stating a desire to work on both Batman and Spider-Man, and seeing these opportunities subsequently arise in your career is very encouraging (perhaps Marvel might give me the chance to write my Nightcrawler limited series before the end of the decade if I keep typing away!) Having made meaningful contributions to the canon of both DC and Marvel with Batman: Abyss and Spider-Geddon, respectively (along with some of the most detailed cover work either publisher is able to boast), what titles or characters do you have in mind for future projects you hope may eventuate? Any characters of your own you’d like to debut, or developing stories for personal favorites you’ve previously mentioned, like Lobo?

JM: Crazy that all of that became a reality, I guess “manifesting” does work. I don’t feel there is a character in my bucket list I need to draw. I had the chance to co-write a Batman 8-page short story for Batman Black and White, and I really enjoyed creating my little Batman universe. So for now I will keep drawing Batman and I’m very happy about that. Other than that I’ve been trying to do my own comic, so every chance I have I write and draw something for it. Hopefully I’ll be able to show something soon!

CBY: Very exciting - I hope we get to see some of it soon, as I'm sure it will be visually stunning, and I'm keen to learn what sort of narrative world you're building on your own, independently of other existing properties. On the note of working with Marvel and DC, are you able to provide any insight into the experience of both finding your initial work and lining up contracts with both companies? How do you find the interplay between corporate and creative culture, what does the editorial oversight process look like in terms of meeting brand expectations, and what do they do differently between each business (especially in comparison to some of the other work you’re doing for Activision and Eidos in the game development space)?

JM: Video games and comics are very different businesses but require similar skills. Artists on video games usually enter at the preproduction stage so we have the time to explore and play around. I love the creative freedom and how the studios nurture exploration to find unique designs. On the other hand, you spend years creating art that may or may not ever see the light of day, which is painful when it doesn’t. Comics tend to be very time-sensitive. You have deadlines you have to meet, and you have to set daily goals to achieve that, sometimes risking the quality. On the other hand, you have art you’re able to show and grow an audience with that.

As for Marvel and DC I would say it’s a pretty similar experience. I enjoy how they trust the artist in some degree. There aren’t that many limitations and pretty much leave me to interpret the characters how I want, always in the context of what’s needed of course. To me my greatest enemy in comics are the deadlines. I’m not a very fast artist and in comics you have to be, so that’s why I decided to focus on cover art recently. I guess in a way, I did my time as an interior artist only to be a cover artist, which was always my goal. I never wanted to be recognized for my interior work really. I don’t think it’s where my skills shine the best.

CBY: Yes, if you enjoy getting into the rendering process and really deliver the full detail you're capable of with your skillset, there's definitely not much time to dive into that when you've got a full book of interiors to crank through. On the note of your art for the gaming industry, I’m exceedingly curious about The Initiative and Crystal Dynamics return to the world of Perfect Dark. The original Nintendo 64 release and GoldenEye 007 book-ended my middle school experience, so I spent countless hours with my friends in those game environments. The original release represented the graphical zenith of the Nintendo 64 hardware, and with your involvement in the project, I’m sure the reboot will raise the bar further. What are you able to share with us about this new game, the intended look of Joanna Dark, and the worldbuilding exercise toward which you’ve been lending your talents?

JM: You and me both! Perfect Dark and GoldenEye on Nintendo 64 were such big and important games in my childhood…or teenage-hood, I guess. I remember playing the hell out of those games with my friends and cousins. I mean... the ”laptop gun” - ICONIC!

Being able to contribute to a game franchise that marked my youth is very special to me. I’m very very excited for this game and the work The Initiative and CD are doing. I can’t say much about it other than I’ve been doing a lot of concept work for it and loving it. It’s been creatively fulfilling.

CBY: I’m sure much of the Perfect Dark material is very much confidential at this point for the upcoming release, but your art book, Zurdo: The Art of Jorge Molina, serves as a retrospective of highlights from your storied career thus far. Can you provide us with a bit of insight as to what you were able to include, the selection process, and if there was anything you were able to add to the collection that is entirely new material, or old material that has never seen the light of day in other publications?

JM: Yes! Pretty much all of my videogame work is under NDA so there won’t be anything in the book, BUT I plan to include art from my personal comic book which includes a lot of the concept work I’ve done for it. I also plan to feature my favorite cover art along with the process work behind it. It will be a mix of things, sketches, covers, line art, character concepts, vehicle concepts, and if we get enough backers I want to do an in-depth tutorial on how I do an original art piece.

CBY: I can't wait to see your independent material after the treatment you've given so many well-established characters, and that sounds like reason enough to pick up a copy of Zurdo! Now, you’re launching this book through Zoop - can you tell us a bit about how you decided to prepare the book through a Zoop campaign, and what it offers beyond other potential options? I presume if you’ve got material from both DC and Marvel, it would preclude either publisher from putting it out, but what sort of material release arrangements needed to be made to get everything sorted out for the campaign to go forward?

JM: Well, it all started with a tweet. I randomly posted at the beginning of the year I was thinking of doing an artbook, and the mighty guys at Zoop reached out to me with a proposal to make that a reality. I’m very lucky since without their help, I wouldn’t be able to do this book. Right now I’m putting the book together and getting clearance on the artwork I want to feature. I still have to figure out how many Marvel and DC images I’m allow to feature, but the idea is to do an even split between them and include some of my other art.

CBY: It sounds like you stay very busy, Jorge, but when you get any downtime, can you share with our readers the sort of comics, films, music, and other media that you indulge in when you have the chance? What should everyone be checking out once they’ve put in an order for your upcoming book of collected art?

JM: Now with two young kids, it’s hard to find time to consume comics, films, music, etc. So I pick one or two and stick with that entertainment. To me the thing I enjoy the most are video games, so I do a lot of competitive gaming on Call of Duty: Warzone with my friends, I have a 2.11 K/D which I’m very proud of, considering I have kids and a job (LOL). I’m also putting some hours into Jedi Survivor and Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I also still need to finish Hogwarts: Legacy - it was a nice surprise how good that game is, considering I was never a Harry Potter fan.

CBY: Jorge, it is a distinct pleasure to have you lend your perspective to the readership today. I’ve included the Zoop link below, but please drop any social media or other links below you’d like our readers to check out. Muchas gracias por tu tiempo!

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