There aren’t many better comic artists than Marcos Martín.
Not that you’d think that if you ever talked to him. Martín is one of the kindest, most self-effacing people I’ve ever met in comics, and he’s not one to talk himself up. But I certainly will, and for good reason: Martín is arguably doing the best work of his career on his current Panel Syndicate series, Friday. His efforts in bringing former teen detective Friday Fitzhugh’s latest and most challenging case yet to life highlight all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect from Martín — the pitch perfect storytelling, the exceptional character acting, the dynamic action, the conductor’s talents at controlling pace — but with the artist reveling in the unique opportunities this project and its genre present him.
It isn’t just Martín making the magic happen, of course. He’s not the only reason this title is as dynamite as it is. It’s a series that perfectly fuses the gifts of Martín, writer Ed Brubaker, and colorist Muntsa Vicente into something that’s somehow greater than the sum of its parts, which is remarkable given how prodigious their talents are. It’s an immersive, exciting read, and one that everyone is killing it on, delivering a series that’s been one of the strongest in the medium since it launched.
It’s a title that deserves more attention, and Martín’s efforts are worth the same. The good news is, that’s something I’m able to do something about. I recently reached out to the artist to see if he’d be interested in discussing his work on the project, and much to my delight, he accepted. So, we popped on Zoom one morning to talk about the Panel Syndicate experience, the challenges of the project, his storytelling decisions, his approach to covers, and a whole lot more as we discuss an array of pages (and one cover) from Friday’s recent seventh issue.
Now, it’s worth noting that we get into spoiler territory in this interview. Issue #7 is a tricky one to discuss without doing so. You’ve been forewarned. But even if you aren’t caught up (or just don’t care about spoilers), this chat is well worth a read, as Martín’s insight into his work might help you understand how he became one of this era’s true greats — and how he’s taking his work to another level on this series. So, prepare yourself for compliments, as Martín had to do as well, and enjoy this lengthy conversation with one of the best artists in the business.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity, as well.
How goes the renegade comic publisher business? Is it still a good time doing your own thing?
Marcos Martín: It’s good in the same way that it’s always been good, in the fact that it’s renegade and we get to do whatever we want to do whenever we want or whenever we’re able to. So, that’s fun. That’s something that I am sure that I’m going to miss the minute that I’m not able to do it anymore. But if you are asking, is it the viable business model? I’d say no.
I’d say no at this point. Not for most, I would say. Unfortunately, I think because of the way the comic book business is going nowadays, it’s probably still as profitable as most digital outlets are. I’m pretty sure that you’re going to make as much money from Panel Syndicate than from any other digital venue, I think. I’m not sure because I don’t share that kind of background.
Do you think that the main issue is just maintaining awareness and attention? Because you and Ed, that’s a big deal. Obviously, there are projects from other talented people, like Alex de Campi, David López, Victor Santos, and a bunch of other people. That’s a lot of talent. Do you think it’s just difficult to keep people’s attention when it comes to these types of efforts? Because when you did The Private Eye, you were this new renegade publisher, and you have this new project from you and Brian and it’s a big deal. But maybe every time since then, it’s incrementally less.
Martín: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I think we’re probably still living out of the atomic bomb that was The Private Eye. That sent so many ripples across the internet verse, I guess, that we’re still able to live from just that single day. That was pretty big. We were aware that the main problem was going to be exposure from the very beginning. Basically, what you were saying, being able to keep attention…it’s difficult.
And I was aware of that too, that when you launch a thing like Panel Syndicate, we probably needed to have five or six projects going at the same time to be able to really launch in a way that would say, “We are this platform, we’re in business, we’re for real.” But that was just not the way things could happen at the time. I didn’t want to involve anyone else in the project besides ourselves because I didn’t want to risk anyone else’s livelihoods in a project that I had absolutely no idea about because I’m no businessman. I’m just an artist, and some would even not say that. (laughs)
So I had no idea how that would work out. And so the plan was just to do our thing and see what happened. And the problem was that it worked, but from a business model point of view, we were not ready to really take that much advantage of that. So, we couldn’t establish ourselves as a comic book platform until later on.
I still love it. I mean, obviously. I’m talking to you, But it is interesting because comic fans are creatures of habit and when you fall out of the repetition, sometimes you can lose top of mind awareness amongst them. For something like Friday, you all have a pretty regular cadence of two a year, with one issue releasing in April or May and another in October or November.
That’s predictability. Predictability matters. But at the same time, for some fans, if you’re not monthly, you get forgotten. And that is one of the tough things, because it seems to me, at least as an outsider, that one of your main goals for this was to get out of those monthly rhythms and do your best work. And so it almost seems like what would be the ideal situation economically versus the ideal situation creatively are in conflict here. Well, I guess they’re always in conflict, right?
Martín: They’re always in conflict. Especially if I’m involved. There’s going to be a conflict if I’m involved just because even though there’s a consistency in the output, it’s a very slow output. And I understand people are used to a monthly schedule. That’s not something that has to happen necessarily. But I understand also that most people, they’re going to forget about an issue that came out six months ago. I understand that. That’s all on me. That’s just because I’m not able to go any faster than that. So I only blame myself if people lose track of, in this case, particularly the Friday series, because it’s just too much of a gap between issues. And then that’s where the creative part comes into conflict with the business part or with the readership is that I’m not able to put them out any faster than that.
I do my best. It’s a Sunday. I’m working right now. I just stopped to talk to you (laughs), but still, I’m just that slow. It’s just the way it is and I don’t want to compromise the quality of whatever quality I’m able to get to. I don’t want to sacrifice that to put it out faster. But at the same time, I understand that the reader, especially in this type of project where it’s a serialized comic and one I think should come out faster. There shouldn’t be such a gap between issues.
Sometimes I forget about what happened on the last issue. (laughs) So when people say, “I have to reread the last issue or two issues back,” I say, “I get it. I understand. It came out a year ago.” Two issues, it’s a year of your life, 1,000 things could have happened to you. And I understand that people are not thinking every day about, “Jesus, when is the next Friday coming out?” Because that would be unreasonable.
I do think it’s funny that you are calling into question your own art quality in an interview where I’m about to compliment you for 45 consecutive minutes.
Martín: Well, that’s why I’m talking to you. I need the compliments. (laughs)
Friday is an interesting book in a lot of ways, as we’ll get into, but it is an unusual genre that is not normally realized in comic book form. Have you found it to be a uniquely challenging project? Or where does the challenge that comes with each of these issues originate? Does that really just come down to regular work stuff and just balancing it with other things you have going on in your life?
Martín: No, now that you mentioned the balancing, the balancing is just between Friday and my life, which is my kids and stuff, doing stuff in the house, house cleaning, and stuff like that. So it’s not like I’ve got like 10 different projects going on.
Well, you still do covers too.
Martín: Every once in a while, but not too many because every time I do a cover it’s like one week that I miss from working on Friday and I just can’t afford that anymore.
But yes, it is a challenge, in a sense. Not in an overwhelming sense. In a fun, creative kind of way, yes, it is. Especially at the beginning when we first started. That’s why I took a lot of time preparing the series and trying to figure out the best approach to the story. And lately I’ve been thinking specifically about my approach. I understand it. I can’t defend it. But I started to think about other ways to approach the material. How would other artists approach it? Would it have been more interesting? I thought about it in a more kind of a ’70s illustration book kind of way to blend that with comic book and the drawing style. Trying to match a little bit of that to capture the mood and the atmosphere of those type of stories.
To have a little bit of the nostalgia back from the reader that are familiar with the detective books from the ’70s with the boy detectives. That all made sense in my mind. But I sometimes think about other ways of approaching it and how they would also be interesting and fun. Once Ed pitched the story to me, I knew exactly what was going to be my approach because I had been thinking about that kind of project for a while. So it was kind of a serendipity for Ed to come up with this project at that specific time. And then it was just time, time to figure out the ways to adapt my drawing style and the storytelling choices. It was challenging, but fun.
Not like The Walking Dead. That Walking Dead project was challenging but in a much more stressful way.
Why is that?
Martín: It’s just because of being The Walking Dead and knowing that only two artists had been part of that world coming in. And also having the story be in Barcelona. It was challenging to figure out a way of making it look like Barcelona without having it be a tour of the city. It’s like, here’s the guy from Barcelona, drawing Barcelona with a lens. I always remember that as being the toughest project that I worked on.
I want to talk about the cover to Friday #7. So before I get into my real questions, did you know from the beginning that you would come back to this? Did you and Ed talk about that? Not in terms of the cover, but The Girl in the Trees. Did you know from the start?
Martín: Yes, we knew from the start of The Girl in the Trees was Friday. So even when I drew the shadow that appears in the first issue, I drew it with the shape of Friday’s head a little bit. It’s impossible to see unless you know. But we knew that The Girl in the Trees was going to be Friday. But I didn’t know the specifics of the story, how it would develop and unfold. And this particular cover, I didn’t have that idea until I had the script for #7.
Okay, I was wondering if that came at the same time as #1, because the cover to Friday #7 is the cover to Friday #1, but from behind Friday and Lancelot as future or present, depending on your perspective, Friday watches on. It really is an incredible cover and an incredible choice. Your covers have been fantastic throughout, with a lot of variation in approach. But I’m curious as to what made this the right choice for this issue, and did it come together when you actually dug into the issue and thought about what the story was?
Martín: Yeah, I usually come up with a cover once I’m done with the whole issue. So while I’m drawing the issue, I’m milling over ideas for, and usually I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do for the cover. That always makes me suffer and I’m always thinking, “Jesus, what am I going to do with this?” And no ideas come. And when I was halfway through this issue, it struck me that in the story, that’s what happens. She’s following them, so we’re seeing issue #1 from the reverse point of view. So it just came to me. It made sense to just take the cover from #1 from the opposite side. And it was just a matter of figuring out a way to make it visually attractive too. But I think this was one of the easy ones, I would say. I didn’t suffer as much with this one, as I’ve suffered with other covers.
I’m very glad the suffering was minimal on this one.
Martín: It was minimal, no animals were harmed. (laughs)
You said that you do the covers after you finish the interiors. The interesting thing about that is for print comics, you’ll need a comics main cover before interiors are complete or sometimes even started. That is not true with Panel Syndicate, as the cover is revealed at the same time as the entire issue is released. It also needs to be less of a selling point because most people aren’t going to buy a digital comic to own a cover like with print comics. I don’t think they are at least. How does that change the cover process? Is it the same as it is for a print comic or are you able to do different things with these because of the nature of how Panel Syndicate does comics?
Martín: To me, the way that I work at Panel Syndicate is the ideal way. The cover should be the last thing to come. Once you’ve gone through the story as an artist, that’s the point where you should be able to make the best decision when it comes to such an important thing. It’s the cover. It’s the selling point or your visual point of entrance into the story. And I always try to make my covers about the story. So, to me, the way it goes with Panel Syndicate is ideal, because I do have that luxury of doing it once I’m done with the issue since I have no time schedule. Obviously when I’m working for Marvel or DC and I have to do covers for other people’s comic books, it’s completely different. And it can be fun sometimes, but sometimes, I’m not allowed to draw covers in ways that are in any way story related because sometimes there’s no story, right?
Martín: Because of the way the covers are scheduled to come four months before the issue comes out because of the Previews catalog and everything.
I just went to see the latest Spider-Man movie, and there’s this character that I co-created and I only co-created accidentally because I was drawing a variant cover for this short series where this character appeared. And I had to draw the cover so far ahead that the story hadn’t actually been written yet. They had the concept of the character, but the artists hadn’t gotten to actually draw the story and were still far away from doing it. So I had to design the character on the fly, just in order to be able to draw the variant cover. So I designed the character, but only because I needed to draw the variant cover.
Who was this?
Martín: This is Spider-Byte.
Oh wow. Some people would say that is the magic of comics. It also could be considered the insanity of comics.
Martín: It’s the insanity. These days I take it with a smile. At the moment I’m sure I was kind of like, “This is crazy.” But then you think about it and it’s like, well, it’s always been like that. And I enjoy that when working with Marvel especially, because it just reminds me of the time when I was reading the comic books. And as a reader, I always thought that that place was probably insane. And once you experience it, it’s fun to actually see that it is insane.
But it’s also the reason why I can only take it for a certain amount of time. I can live with that insanity for short periods of time now, now that I’m older. But I still enjoy it. I still think, well crazy. But yeah, sure, let’s do it. It doesn’t make any sense that I’m drawing a variant cover, it’s not even the real cover or the main cover, but I’m going to get to design this character and suddenly five years later, it has more of a prominent role than I ever thought it would.
I love the opening pages of each Friday issue, like this one. It always opens with an establishing shot of a setting that either shows off King’s Hill or specific locations like what Friday’s bedroom looks like as she’s working at her desk. Are those types of shots a nod to the genre you’re working in, or is it just something that feels like the right answer for what Friday is meant to be?
Martín: I think it’s part of what the series is in that it has a lot to do with mood and atmosphere. It’s a part of the story itself, the atmosphere, or at least that’s the way I visualized it from the very beginning. So you need to have that feeling of being immersed in the story. And that’s a way of doing it. And I established that in the first issue, and I’m a sucker for symmetry. Once I started the first issue with a double black and white spread — the first two pages are just of some tiny snowflakes appearing and then you open into the chapter and the double spread — I knew that that was what I had to do with every chapter. And sometimes it’s difficult to find that stupid black and white spread before the opening, to find the element that connects it to the opening spread.
And #7 was the moon, right?
Martín: #7 was the moon, that’s right. So I always visualize it like if you were in a movie or a TV series, you would start with just that single element, and then suddenly you open to whatever. And that’s just a very small element of the page that doesn’t have that much importance actually.
How do you and Ed work on this series? Does he just leave how the visuals work to you, so you can establish elements like this? Or are there certain things he’s particular about?
Martín: The double page spread…he realized after the first couple of issues that I would always start with a spread. So he writes it as a single page, but knows that it’s going to become a double page. Those first two black and white pages, whatever that single element ends up being, he just leaves up to me. He’s very good with the script. He is similar to Brian in the way that they are both so good that you could really draw the comic book with their visual indications of what’s going on and it would be perfectly fine and readable.
So my job always is to find ways of upgrade that. To find ways of showing the information that they’re giving to me in the script. Even the visual cues, to find ways of making it more interesting or to extract more things out of them, present them in a way that sometimes rearranges the information so that it flows more easily for the reader. And that’s just my job. But visually, the script could work perfectly. You could really sit down and draw whatever Ed tells you in each panel and it would work.
Well, thank you for making it even better. And don’t tell Ed and Brian I said that. Wait, now they’re going to read this.
Martín: There’s no way for you to know that I’m doing that. I’m telling you that, but I could actually be following exactly what they say. You have to trust me on that.
Yeah, but it’s an ideal situation for comics, in which a writer writes something and then the artist gives their lens to it and adds what they think is necessary to it. That’s what you’re doing. And I imagine that’s what Ed and Brian trust you to do.
Martín: Yeah, I think they do. (laughs) They don’t complain too much, at least.
Martín: But yes, they leave it up to me and all the changes that I make are usually fine. We hardly ever argue about anything. And every time that we’ve discussed points, they are always about clarity and we always end up agreeing. That’s because we always come from a story related point of view. So it’s always a matter of, does this work with the story? Is this clear enough?
Ed has never come to me with something about how, “This doesn’t make any sense.” Whenever he has any doubt, I look at it and I’m like, “Yeah, I think it’s probably right.” Maybe I was thinking about from this point of view and I didn’t see the other point of view. So it’s always very reasonable.
It sounds like Ed, to some degree, is adapting his scripts knowing that you’re going to do certain things and baking that in there. Like you were talking about he doesn’t even put in there that you’re going to have your black and white part and he keeps this type of spread as a single page, even though he knows you’re going to expand it to a double page spread every time. It seems like he’s putting it in there with the knowledge that you are going to do what you do because that’s what you do.
Martín: In a certain way, yes, I think so. But I’m not sure. You’d have to ask him. I don’t know if he adapts his process to my style. I don’t know about that. When I read the stuff that he does with Sean now that I’ve worked with him for so long, I look at it and think, “Oh, I see what he probably wrote here,” the way that Sean approached it. And I’m thinking, how would I approach this? What way would it be different? And it’s just inevitable that every artist brings their own lens to the script.
This is what you need to do. You need to pitch a Freaky Friday type situation where you draw a volume of Reckless and Sean can draw an issue of Friday and then you can see how the two turn out.
Martín: The only thing that I know about that is in the time that it takes me to draw an issue of Reckless, Sean would’ve probably drawn at least 100 issues of Friday. (laughs)
He is very fast.
I did want to ask about King’s Hill. I have an idea in my head about it. How much more do you know about King’s Hill than is strictly necessary to tell the story? Do you have the whole town mapped out or do you just know what is necessary to tell this story?
Martín: I have it mapped out in my head. Not that it would necessarily make any sense in a geographical way. But every time that Ed sets a scene in a certain place, I need to picture in my mind which part of town that would happen, more or less. So sometimes I’m pretty sure he is not aware of that because he is thinking of like, “Well, this happens in some place in town.” And I’m suddenly thinking, well, but the way I’m thinking about this, this is here and the other thing is here and it wouldn’t make sense for her to get from this point to this point in this way.
And all that is invisible for the reader. There’s no way for the reader to make any kind of map in their head of the town. But in my head, I need to more or less place everything. Like Friday’s house should be right on the other side of town from where the lighthouse is. So she needs to cross all of King’s Hill to get to it. It just makes sense in my head.
It makes sense to me too because in #6 there’s that sequence where Friday has to run home. And I’m not saying that if you drew it a different way, it wouldn’t make sense or something like that. But I think you putting the thought into this type of thing is part of the reason why it ends up being as special as it is. You put so much thought into it that you can tell that all this stuff means a lot to you. The care goes into the work. And I think that’s essential.
I love this sequence. This is when Weasel and Friday are getting into it in the car and they get into a crash. I wanted to ask about the black panels in specific, which I love, because it’s clearly meant to represent Friday weaving in and out of consciousness. But I’m curious, what made this the right choice to convey what was going on?
Martín: Well, this was different in the script. I remember coming up with the black panels just because I felt that we needed to have that kind of dizziness to show it in a visual way. Does it work?
I think it does, yeah.
Martín: That’s just the way I figured I could get across the idea that she’s weaving in and out of consciousness. It’s not for a long time. It just made sense to me. And also, on the previous page with the crash, Ed imagined it as you could see the car crashing into the tree. So you went directly from the car crash into, I think there was a black panel, and then you had the same thing that’s going on here, just with no black panels in between.
I got rid of the actual crash because I just felt that it’s been done so many times before. It’s fun to draw, but do you get a better reaction as a reader from seeing it or from imagining it? Is it better to show it or is it better to not? Because if you were in an accident…I’ve never been in an accident, but I can guess that the last thing you see is the impact. And then just blackness, so that’s the way I pictured it. You know what’s going to happen, just you never see it. You just have to imagine it.
I like it because it’s more immersive this way. I have been in one of those crashes. Not running into a tree, but I’ve been in an accident where the airbag goes off and the last thing you do is protect yourself. And then almost the exact same thing that Friday’s doing comes next, where my first reaction is, “Where the hell are my glasses?” Because they got rocketed off by the airbag.
I love how you did the black panels, where they are reducing in size each time, as she’s slowly regaining consciousness. You can feel that in the length of time that passes there. That’s one of the things I really appreciate about your art in general, you put so much thought into this stuff. And it’s obviously not an accident that they get smaller each time. I’m sure that was a very deliberate choice you made.
Martín: It was a deliberate choice, yes. (laughs) It’s not that I was running out of space, no.
“I have to make this smaller, so I can make sure I get more Friday in here.” (laughs)
Martín: “I forgot about the black panel, I was just going to squeeze it in here.”
Just really small.
Martín: The idea was that she’s waking up and at first what she sees is smaller because she’s awake from for a shorter amount of time. And so the black panel is bigger because she’s been out of it for a longer time and she’s slowly regaining consciousness. So the black panel gets shorter because the amount of time that passes is shorter, basically. So that’s very simple.
Another thing I want to comment on is…I mentioned the glasses. I love the last panel on the right page, where Friday’s glasses are just askew. I feel like that’s something you’ve experienced as someone who wears glasses (Marcos laughs), where they get in this weird position. There’s a version of this page where it’s just her wearing glasses normally on the final panel. And for some reason, that just made me laugh because I’m pretty sure that exact thing has happened to me. So good job by you. Your character acting, as for usual, is on point, Marcos.
Martín: Thank you. All of us who wear glasses, at some point, we’ve been in that situation where the glasses just have a life of their own.
I wanted to talk about the layouts in specific. There are two things that you do that are interesting throughout this series that are fairly consistent elements. You may say that this is not necessarily true. Fittingly, one of these doesn’t actually match the first, which is that I actually counted, because I’m a loon, 18 of the pages in this issue have three rows of panels. That is consistently dominant throughout the series. The other is that there are consistently giant white gutters. Maybe this is just me looking for things that are pretty standard. But what made these the right solutions for this book? Or are they not thing you’re doing and I’m a crazy person? (Marcos laughs)
Martín: It’s funny that you mentioned the gutters. Do you think they’re huge?
They seem bigger. I actually looked back through some other comics and they seem more pronounced. And maybe that was especially in the issue where it was very snowy and it just felt that way because there was so much white. But it’s something that’s always felt very present to me.
Martín: I’m just curious because the gutters is the thing that I’ve been working on the exact size that I want them to be. For Private Eye….to me, they’re just too narrow now that I look at it. It bothers me. But I’ve noticed that most modern comic books have really small gutters. It’s a very personal thing. It feels too cramped to me. I need space. And gutters is a part of it, but what’s going on in the panels has to do with that too. I just need clarity. It’s just the way my brain works. I need things to be really clear otherwise they stress me out. So I need the gutters to be this size. I’m thinking about it now, maybe they feel wider because there’s no black outline.
Martín: So maybe that makes them feel bigger. To me, they’re just the way I need them to be.
And the other thing you mentioned…I felt the need to have more control of the page from the point of view of designing the page. So for this series, I try to be very straightforward, kind of old-fashioned in the way that there are two, three tiers of panels and there are not too many crazy things going on with the shapes of the panels. And it’s very classic in the way that I lay out the page. So you’re right, it’s usually that. And I even try to make them as identical as possible, but that varies sometimes.
Yeah, the most I ever saw was I think five rows. And it was when you had four stacked rows on the right side to show a bunch of information really quick. And that was extraordinarily unusual. But I think clarity is the right word there.
I’m going to bring up two different pages. For both, I’m specifically focusing on the third and fourth panels. The thing I like about it is…I think it goes back to your word, symmetry, where on one it has Friday looking left and right and you showing the action kind of coming out of her head. And then the other one is Friday at two different times with her glasses connecting to make her whole face. That’s something you do several times in this issue. I think it works really well where different images build off of each other, while reinforcing her temporal situation, where she’s from now and she’s from later and she’s at these different times. It really reinforces that visually.
When it comes to things like this, how much do those solutions just come from what the story needs, and how much comes from you wanting to push yourself as an artist and find new, interesting ways to tell stories like this?
Martín: I think it’s a little bit of both. But I think it’s mostly story related. And I’m saying this because I’m just so lazy that I doubt that the need to express myself and my creativeness is inside me. It’s more that they have to force me to come up with solutions and that always come from the story. So it not like, oh, let me see which way can I do this differently? It’s more like, well, the story is asking me for this, so let’s just sit down and try to figure it out, even though I really want to go and have a Coke or something. (laughs)
One thing I really like about the page on the right is how you use the layout. It’s just all going down quickly, with each being full page horizontal-ish, as the third and fourth panels form a single image. It makes the page feel really fast. Reading it, going from Weasel’s dad to Weasel driving really fast to this moment where Friday’s panicked because she realizes what’s happening and then her in the woods, it just feels like there’s this real sense of urgency to it, just through how you laid out the page. It rocks, Marcos.
Martín: I love it. I think it might have to do with the fact that we already have all the information at this point because we know what has happened, so I didn’t need to establish anything. Like with her face on the third panel, in any other situation you’d be like, “What’s going on? What is this? Why is her face dark and where is she?” But you know that, you know that she’s in the back of the car. Also there’s the text that also says that, so I didn’t feel the need to be descriptive in this kind of situation. You can just show a very small part of it and you are with Friday. At that point, what the story needs, you jump from the plot information…which is he gets away with the car. You already know that.
Right, you’re catching up.
Martín: You basically need to show his dad’s reaction. That’s new information. And you need to see him racing away. But everything else…you know that. And so you can jump into the backseat of the car, and that’s Friday, you know where she is and you know where she’s going to be. So the next panel, the moment that you show her and you show the glasses and you show the snow falling, you are already out of the car and you’re with Friday and you’re at a different time. And that’s the way of connecting both of them.
I hope it works.
Oh, it does.
Martín: It makes sense to me.
It works really well.
For this one, I don’t have a lot to say besides you did an amazing job. But the thing I wanted to bring up about it is from Ed’s write-up in the back of the issue, about how the time loop nature of the story provided both him and Friday a lot of challenges. Did you find the same to be true or did you find that it offered interesting opportunities to you as a storyteller? Because it does give you the chance to play with that symmetry we are talking about.
Martín: Yeah, it was a particular challenge. Especially one of the things that worried me at the beginning a little bit was the fact that there were time jumps in the story itself. So within the time jump, we were flashing forward and back. That worried me in that it would be a little bit too much for the reader. So my main concern was for the reader to understand the moment that after the crash, when we go back in time, we’re going back in time to the beginning of the time loop. But she’s already time traveled and that was kind of like, “Okay, let’s hope that the reader is following all this flashback and flash forward and everything else.”
It was challenging, but again, it’s always fun with Friday. It always is. It doesn’t anguish me too much. I don’t have much anxiety when it comes to Friday. It comes kind of naturally. So even on this page, the script was completely different because Ed had Friday pacing around and walking and smoking. And I felt like we didn’t need to do that because we could take advantage of the smoke of the cigarette. We had already shown her lighting the cigarette and throwing it away too much. So I didn’t want to go to that again. So I needed to figure out a way of doing the flashback scene.
It was all in text, but you didn’t see anything? I thought, well, this is a good visual way to reinforce what’s going on in the text and for the reader to recap all the information visually too.
So Ed had her pacing around. What do you do when you come up with the other approach? Do you go back to Ed and say, “Hey, what do you think about depicting all this through the smoke?” Is that what you do? Or are you just like, “Screw Ed, I’m going to draw this thing and he better like it.”? (both laugh)
Martín: It’s a middle ground between both. (laughs) I always draw the layouts first and then I show Ed and we go over them together to see if there’s anything that doesn’t work. And if that’s not clear, we go again. So we discuss everything and every time I make a bigger change, I always explain it to him and I’m sweating. I’m like, “He’s going to hate it. He’s going to hate this.” So I’m suffering all the way through until I get the confirmation that it’s fine or whatever.
Where does lettering fit in your process? For something like this, it feels like you really need to have that buttoned up to make sure that you know where everything’s going to fit so it flows well. Is that something you consider, even going back into the layout phase when you’re sending something to Ed? Or is that something that just gets sorted out after you get the visuals all done?
Martín: No, Ed writes full script, so that gives me the advantage of making all the lettering placements in the layouts. So when I send the layouts over to Ed, it’s not just the layout, it’s got the lettering placement, so that he knows where every caption and every balloon is going to go. And then I do the lettering over the pencils. Basically when I pencil the issue, I do the final lettering so that I know that I have enough space or if there’s anything that needs adjustment so I can move it. I can move the drawing. I can scale it down or scale it bigger. Any adjustment that needs to be made, I do it in the penciling stage, so that way when I’m doing the inks, I already know that the lettering is going to fit.
Last page…I just want to say first off, bravo, Muntsa. This page is incredible. Do you two talk about the colors as you hand off pages or is it largely just on her to find out what the right answers are and then just blow us away with whatever she comes up with?
Martín: Well, she’s right next to me when we’re working. (laughs) But in this case particularly, I think she presented the page to me almost fully colored, if I remember correctly. I had little to do with the actual choice of colors or anything. It was her. She decided on the magenta. And the only thing I remember…my only input in this page was to have the owl a lighter bluish tone, and I think that was it, basically.
It’s amazing. It also helps that so much of the book itself is very heavily white. So when you get to this, you’re just blown away. But it really works.
You brought up the owl.
This issue has some incredible monster designs. What did Ed ask for? And what made these, particularly all of the eyes, there’s a lot of eyes going on here…
Martín: A lot of eyes, yeah.
What made these the right solutions for these monsters?
Martín: I was thinking about the eyes the other day. There’s too many eyes here.
Oh no, it’s way more intense with the eyes. I think it works really well.
Martín: The eyes came from spiders. The fact that I have a little bit of arachnophobia.
Oh, me too.
Yeah, that’s why the eyes stand out.
Martín: It’s normal to have an arachnophobia. The people who don’t have it, there’s something wrong with them, because you should be scared of that. (David laughs) That’s not natural. So yeah, lots of eyes make sense to me to make it monster-like. And yeah, Ed asked for strange monsters and the owl made sense to me because that was a visual that we had been playing with since the beginning of the book. There’s all these owls. So I felt that we needed to do something with that.
The spider wolf was an idea…I think it was Ed that had some kind of similar idea and put it into my head. And the other one is the strangest one. That is something between a tree and a deer. That’s kind of like…I don’t even know what it is, it just felt like something. They had to be nature related because of the story. So that made sense. But the only thing that I’m not sure about the monsters is if they’re scary. To me, they’re a little bit goofy. Look, I’m not good at doing scary stuff.
I think that they are, because as I read I put myself in the story from the perspective of Friday. And if I was sitting in a forest and I saw a portal open and those things came out, I would go as far away from everything that’s happening as humanly possible. So I think you’re successful, but at the same time, scary as in the eye of the beholder, right?
Martín: Yeah. I’m not sure most people would find them scary, but they’re monsters. In the whole design of the story and with my art style, it’s the most monster-y thing that you are going to find.
I don’t know…what happens with Cross in issue six?
Martín: Oh yeah.
That was pretty monster-y too.
One other thing I wanted to talk about with this page is I’ve actually reread the series multiple times because a) I like it and b) it’s good to remind myself of details. One thing that really stood out here is the posture and mannerisms of the character with their back to us and how it recalls the posture and mannerisms of another character doing something similar in issue two. We’ve already talked about the symmetry, which makes sense because it’s a time loop issue. But how much did you have to dig back into previous issues to make those connections? Or did this just happen naturally because you’re amazing at your job?
Martín: (laughs) I’m going to go with that last one.
Yeah, I would too.
Martín: Most things I do come naturally from the story. This pose, obviously there’s symmetry with another pose in the story. So I’m just trying to make connections for the reader, if you are looking into it. And once you read the whole story, hopefully everything will make more sense and you’ll be able to find these kind of visual cues from one thing to another. The timing of this is a great chance to work with these things.
I have to say, I’m a little annoyed with Ed from his writeup in the back of the issue because he talks about how, “We’ll be revealing many secrets that we’ve held back until now and find out exactly who the White Lady is and what she’s doing. Some should be obvious by now to some of you, maybe.” It’s not obvious to me, Ed! (Marcos laughs) Come on, man! I was like, “Am I missing something? What’s going on?” I’m going to be very surprised or I’m going to be very mad at myself. One of the two, but either way.
Martín: I’m with you. Man, I read that and I was like, how obvious are they? Because I’m not sure. (laughs)
Last question for you…you have two issues to go on Friday. It’s been a doozy and it’s been a real change of pace for you too, genre-wise, at least. What have you learned from this project, in terms of collaboration, what you’re looking for as a storyteller, as an artist, whatever? Have there been any big learnings for you when it comes to this project?
Martín: There are ways that I’ve approached the work that are different now. There’s specific things that I’ve done with Friday that I’m not sure that I will be able to do with other projects that are very specific to it. From a very practical point of view, I’ve been working in a smaller size with the pages. And conceptually, I think I’ve been just basically applying everything that I know up until now.
What I can say is I’ve just had a good time. It was exactly what I needed at a very tough point in my life when we started. It helped me out. For once, work was soothing. It was like a place where I could retreat and be well, and that’s important. I think it’s probably what I will remember most about Friday. It’s been a project that’s helped me out and that has been challenging, but fun and rewarding.
And you’ve been very good at it. Good job by you.
Martín: Thank you, thank you.
I’m going to stop recording. No more compliments on the record.