Interview With Joe Benitez

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May 18, 2015
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May 29, 2015

What’s up Denizens of The nerdVERSE! Today I’ve got an awesome treat for you all. We reached out to Joe Benitez, long time comic industry artist and writer, and he was kind enough to answer some of our questions. We didn’t want to bombard him with questions, so we stuck with my favorites (which is easy to do, when you’re the one doing the leg work)! A little bit of info on Joe; Joe has been in the industry as early as 1993, and worked with some of the coolest titles in the industry. Right now, Joe has been working on his own project Lady Mechanika, which you can order and see more about at www.joebenitez.com

We’ve made it easy to tell who’s who; STP will be us here in The nerdVERSE, and JB will be Joe.

 

STP: Hey Joe, thank you for taking the time to do this. With all of your credits in the comic book industry, it’s really a treat for us here at Split the Party and the whole nerdVERSE all together. As a disclaimer to our audience, we are conducting this interview over email – hopefully they won’t be too critical of the “no-pictures, didn’t happen” mentality, but we all know that is a beast that cannot be tamed.

Before we get started, would you mind telling us your current project(s) that we should mention, and your website for readers to find out more about you?

JB: I am currently working on Lady Mechanika, finishing up The Tablet of Destinies and developing additional Lady M stories as well as trying to make some time to develop a few other characters I have bobbing around in my noggin .  My site is www.joebenitez.com.

STP: Here in The nerdVERSE we all started reading comics at a young age, and it’s been a passion of ours since then. When did you get into comic books, and was there a specific issue that birthed “Joe Benitez: Comic Artist”?

JB: My first comics were some  Archie and Veronica comics that a neighbor gave me, I was probably about 8 or 9. I still remember the smell of newsprint . To this day every time I smell newsprint it takes me back.   In elementary school, I think around 5th or 6th grade, I was given my first superhero comic ,it was an anti-drug book with Teen Titans. I think George Perez drew it, not sure.  The very  first comic I actually bought was GI Joe #40, I think. I was about 13 or 14 or so. I was a fan of the GI Joe action figures (still am) went into a liquor store to grab a soda and some chips but ended up buying that comic instead. That lead me  to  track down all the back issues I could.  I remember buying bundles of comics at Target.   That’s pretty much how I got into collecting them.  The two books  that really got me as a kid and made a major impact  were Gi Joe #21, Silent interlude, and Yearbook #2 by Michael Golden and Larry Hama.  I was so blown away by Golden’s art ,that’s the book that got me thinking, I want to do this , I want to do that someday.
STP: Once you decided that being in the comic industry was for you, who would you say were your biggest influences of the what-to-do and what-not-to-dos in your art?
JB: When I broke in  I was a fan of a lot of artists. I did however have a look that I really wanted to develop and that consisted of Todd McFarlane’s layouts and dynamics with While Portacio proportions and anatomy, and Barry Windsor Smith storytelling. What not to do ? That’s simple ,don’t be boring.
STP: You’ve been in the industry for a while. I’ve seen your credits from as early as 1994, and between then and now you’ve done everything from writing to cover art, but as an artist in this medium, what is your favorite part of working in the comic industry?
JB: Creating new characters, new worlds.  I try to create things that have never been seen before, or at the very  least doing things and introducing them in a   different way.  It’s difficult to do something completely  new, but taking something that exist and tweaking is much easier.
STP: Coming into the industry in the mid 90’s had to have been interesting; when we look back we see disproportionation muscles, pouches for no reason, zippers, and an excessive use of neon. You never seemed to buy into that, but hindsight is 20/20. Is there something you wish you would have done differently in your earlier artwork?
JB: Maybe not as many thong-leotards.  There were a lot of thongs back in the 90s.  But I actually like all the pouches and stuff cause it helps hide my trouble spots on my figures.
STP: Is there a project from your past that you still love more than the rest? One that really sticks out in your mind as the “Go-To Joe Benitez Piece?”
JB: It’s difficult for me to let go of things, I get attached to everything I do. I was very attached to the Weapon Zero characters, didn’t want to let them go. Similarly with Wraithborn. When you create something you feel attached to them to some extent, like they’re your kids.They become part of you.
STP: Some of your projects were released weekly; what was it like to have that type of work on your plate, and what did your daily routine look like? I imagine lots of coffee, and little sleep?
JB: Weekly?  No, that never happened. Monthly, kind of, but it was usually more of a 5-6 week schedule.  When you have to turn in a page every 1-2 days, you have to let things go, even though I want to keep revising and perfecting it. But you have to realize that the most important part is telling the story.  I just always want to make every little detail as perfect as possible, but then the book would never get done because I’m never entirely happy.
STP: You’ve taken the time to work with the biggest publishers in the industry, Marvel, DC, & Image Comics. But right now you seem to really be focusing on your own project Lady Mechanika. Was this a natural progression, or a project that you really wanted to see get off the ground?
JB: I’ve always wanted to do my own comics. I’ve wanted to partner with a studio and have my own imprint but no one ever seemed keen on the idea  for whatever reason. I  actually enjoy working on my own projects of my own making rather than doing work for hire. I don’t function as well when I’m just a hired hand. It bores me.  I’d rather do this than working for the big 2 or any company , unless of course I was given carte blanche with their characters.  I need the creative freedom to excel. I feel stifled when there are too many restrictions and that actually makes it really difficult for me to produce.   Doing things on my own is a lot more work and a lot less money but it’s also a lot more satisfying.
STP: With the successful launch of Lady Mechanika, can you offer any advice to the newer generation of artists and writers who want to get into the comic industry?
JB: If you’re in it for the money you’re in it for the wrong reason.  You need to be passionate about what your doing.  Comics are a good way to tell a story, one of the best ways to tell a visual story, and a cost effective way to do it.  But you probably won’t get rich unless you get a top selling book .  Other industries you can get paid a lot more for half the work.  So do this only if you’re really passionate about it and don’t mind long long hours little to no social life.
STP: I use art as a form to relax, which is probably the reason it looks like crap – I never honed the skill. But after years of work even in the field you love, what do you do to relax? Why do you put the pencil down?
JB: Art used to be my way of relaxing, right now I like to sculpt whenever I have the chance but I rarely have the chance.  I’m also deeply into interpretive dance. I’m all about the jazz hands.
STP: And lets say after you put the pencil down for good in the professional world, and you retire. What would you make you pick it up again in a heartbeat? What is that one project that you dream of work on, and would not let pass up?
JB: I don’t think I have anything like that.  I used to, all I wanted back in my 20s and 30s was to work on the big iconic books, but now I don’t really dream about working on any iconic book.  I enjoy working on my own projects.But then again if a company came to me and said we’ll pay you a butt load of cash to work on this character and you get to do whatever you want ,then my ears would definitely perk up.
STP: To wrap it up, outside of the world of comicbooks, what other interests do you have within The nerdVERSE? Remember, The nerdVERSE is the all encompasing world of comics, movies, television, card games, board games, role playing games, etc..?
JB: I like collecting and customizing  1:6 action figures. The reason I got into comics in the first place was GI Joe. I’m still a fan of them, just got into bigger toys.  I’d really like to do toys of my own characters in the future.

STP: Thank you Joe, it’s been a pleasure to have this opportunity with you, and we look forward to seeing more from Lady Mechanika and doing what we can to spread the word on that. We’ll let you know when the interview is made live in The nerdVERSE!
JB: Thank you for having me!
It was awesome having the opportunity to reach out to Joe, hear about his ongoing project Lady Mechanika, and get a little bit deeper inside one the industries own. We hope you guys had a great time, and we look forward to seeing you in The nerdVERSE!
Rob De Ville
Rob De Ville
Rob "The cineNERD" is an independent film director, documentarian, and co-owner of Duobus Design - a creative video adverting agency. Rob has been fascinated by super heroes, comic books, and table top games since his time in grade school, and has been piling on new things ever since. When he isn't watching movies, he's probably working out at the gym.