With the recent release of Green Lantern and X-Men:First Class, we’ve seen a ton of concept art from those movies surface here at ComicBookMovie.com. The vast majority of that draw-dropping artwork has come from creature/character designer, Jerad S. Marantz. A vet in the concept art game, Marantz has worked on a lot more than those two films. His impressive resume includes Sucker Punch, Jonah Hex, Clash of the Titans, Nightmare on Elm Street, and many more video games and movies. Recently, I was able to catch up with Marantz and discuss his profession, what CBM movie he worked on that was never made, and what he’s working on now.
Interview conducted by Mark Julian for ComicBookMovie.com. All rights reserved, © Mark Julian.
MJ: How did you get started as a concept artist for major movies?
JM: I started off like most designers I know. I was a kid who could not stop drawing monsters. I got into a lot of trouble for it at school. It’s an obsession that was more fun to me than almost anything else. Around the age of thirteen I started to focus, realizing that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was fortunate enough to get an internship at a local low budget special effects house. I was very interested in sculpting and making monsters for practical effects, putting actors in creature suits and stuff like that. After spending time in that side of the industry, studying sculpture, mold making, and all the things that go into practical effects, I realized I cared most of all about the design. I eventually gave up sculpture and moved into more of an illustrative education. I went to Pasadena Art Center College of Design and I studied illustration with a minor in entertainment design. Once I graduated from Art Center, I got a job at Stan Winston’s, where I ended up designing on a few projects. While there I met Aaron Sims (the studio’s lead artist) who was entertaining the idea of starting his own company. After my time at Stan Winston’s, I freelanced for a lot of special effects houses and video game companies. Eventually Sims formed the Aaron Sims Company and I became his lead artist. I still freelance for special effects houses, video game companies, and major Hollywood studios. Over time one gradually builds up a client list, develops a reputation, and hopefully when these projects come around, they think of you.
MJ: Where do you draw inspiration from?
JM: I tend to draw inspiration from a lot of things. So many things inspire me. Everything from music to art to film. Oftentimes when I’m working on a new project, I’ll actually go through my ITunes library and I’ll assemble a short soundtrack for the character or creature I have to design. It’s a trick I’ve been using for awhile—I’ve noticed that it actually helps me visualize what I have to execute. The music helps me visualize the character interacting in scenes, possibly fighting, and makes it a lot easier for me to flesh it out.
MJ: Who's your favorite comic book character?
JM: Well, I hate to be cliché, but I’ve always loved Batman. He’s been my absolute favorite comic book character for as long as I’ve been into comic books. As a kid, I would rush home and watch Batman the Animated Series. It was so wonderfully done, and still to this day I’ll watch those cartoons. Anything by Bruce Timm, I own. Batman is by far one of my favorites. Watching the cartoons got me into the comic books, and I remember when I started to get into the comic books, it was around the time of Nightfall, when Bane starts to get the upper hand on Batman. It was a really exciting time in comic books, and I remember it fondly. It was a great way to be introduced to the Batman universe. And of course, Batman has the greatest rogue’s gallery, in my opinion, of any comic book property. So Batman is obviously my favorite. Aside from Batman, I also loved Spawn. It was so dark and I loved how violent that comic was. Spawn also excited me artistically at that age—I was a big fan of Todd Mcfarlane’s work. I loved his energy and the emotion.
MJ: Which comic book character(s) did you like working on the most?
JM: I’ve worked on a lot of comic book characters over the past few years, some of them were for movie pitches that never happened. I really enjoyed designing the Guardians for Green Lantern. I’ve always been a fan of the comic book, and to help create the Guardians was a real challenge, finding their individual personalities and helping to design their look. I’ve also recently worked on the new Amazing Spiderman movie, out in 2012. I helped design the Spiderman suit and I also worked on the Lizard. That was a blast because I’m a big fan of Spiderman as well. Other projects I’ve recently worked on—I did Ghostrider: Spirt of Vengeance, over at Tinsley Studio, which will be coming out also in 2012, I think.
MJ: Which character was the most difficult to develop a concept for?
JM: The most challenging character I’ve ever had to concept as a comic book adaptation was Jonah Hex. I spent weeks on his scar. It was such an important part of his character, and it really took a lot of finessing and variations to get it to a place where people were happy. That concept was developed at Tinsley Studios and it was a really solid practical makeup.
MJ: How does working with Marvel compare to working with DC (Warner Bros.)?
JM: I’ve worked on both Marvel and DC properties. When you are on any comic book movie the design challenges are relatively the same. You’re designing characters that people are already familiar with and the challenge is always how can we push the designs, adapt them for film, but still keep them recognizable as those iconic characters.
MJ: What character do you feel is most deserving of a big-screen adaption, yet hasn't received one?
JM: There are a lot of villains I’d actually like to see onscreen that have been neglected over the years. Personally, I would love to see a Justice League movie with Dark Side as the villain. I’ve been waiting for that one for a really long time. Individual characters don’t stand out to me as much as graphic novels do. I’d love to see a Batman film around one of my favorite comic books, The Killing Joke. In that story, the Joker tries to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. He shoots Barbara Gordon, AKA Batgirl, in the stomach, crippling her for life. I’d love to see a Kingdom Come movie. It’s just a beautiful story and so epic, the budget on that would be completely insane. Aside from that, a The Dark Knight Returns movie and an X-Men: Age of Apocalypse trilogy.
MJ: What concept art will you release next after your brilliant Green Lantern pieces?
JM: I have a few projects coming out in the near future. I spent a lot of time on Amazing Spiderman, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Transformers 3, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I look forward to posting a few of those concepts.
MJ: With your great designs, do you ever receive offers to work on comics or graphic novels?
JM: Not yet. That would be pretty fun to do. I wouldn’t mind trying cover art.
MJ:Have you ever done concept designs for comic book movies and the movies were never made?
JM: Yes, some of my favorite work has been done for comic book movies that have never been made. A few years back I did a re-launch of Fantastic Four. It was really a fun gig; I got to redesign the whole team, and their abilities. I’m pretty sure that project got shelved. Another project was for a Lobo movie. That was also incredibly fun, but I’m pretty sure that project got shelved as well.
MJ: What are you currently working on?
JM: Currently I’m designing for a comic book movie called R.I.P.D. I’m on a few other projects but cannot discuss them.
MJ: What advice would you give to someone looking to break into your profession?
JM: I recommend that anyone wanting to break into design study a traditional foundation in art. They need a solid understanding of figure drawing, painting, perspective… a good solid foundation will get you far. After that, I also recommend that you dive headfirst into the technology. You need to know at least two 3D programs. I work extensively with Zbrush, and have been meaning to pick up other programs like Maya or Modo. Nowadays it’s professionally irresponsible not to know at least one or two 3D packages as well as being proficient in Photoshop. Aside from the craft, I would recommend that people really research the jobs that they want and contact the companies they want to work for: find out what their portfolio requirements are, and what they are looking for in an employee, and then cater your portfolio to fit. It’s never too early to make your presence known.
You can follow Marantz's blog here.
Ogre from Sucker Punch:
The Kraken from Clash of the Titans: