Madame Xanadu by Marley Zarcone

Madame Xanadu by Marley Zarcone

On the Thursday before this year’s WonderCon, I was invited to dinner with a small group of comic industry mover and shakers.  The seat next to my right was conspicuously empty and I must have expressed some disappointment in its lack of occupant.  However, I was assured that the last of our dinner party would be arriving soon.  “Her name is Marley Zarcone,” I was told, “You’re going to love her.”

Truer words could not have been spoken.  When Marley arrived, she flew into her chair like a bird, brushed her red bangs across her forehead with a quick flick of her wrist, and beamed a smile so bright that it could make a lighthouse jealous.  I was smitten.

Conversation with Marley that evening really took off when she revealed that she was going to be drawing an issue of Madame Xanadu (one of my favorite comic titles) and I told her I was a tarot reader.  We immediately made plans to meet up after Wonder Con was over so I could read her cards in exchange for a sketch of the X-Men’s Storm.  I was elated.

During conventions lots of ideas are expressed and many plans are made, but not a lot get to actually materialize.  At the end of the chaotic weekend, it’s a small miracle if you can remember to do the things you are supposed to do, let alone the other things you get convinced to take on in addition to your duties.  I wouldn’t have held it against Marley if she had let me know that we would have to postpone our time together.  However, Marley is a woman of her word.  She checked in with me on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to make sure we were still meeting up for tarot and sketch.  After Wonder Con ended on Sunday, I met with Marley at the Image booth and we both exited the hall to find the skies pouring down rain.  We had to plead with a couple of convention workers for extra plastic bags with which to wrap Marley’s artwork and, then, under one umbrella, we ventured into the wetness to find a cab to get to Marley’s hotel.  Not quite the adventure I had envisioned for us, but one we “weathered” well nonetheless.

Our tarot and sketching time was awesome and resulted in this gorgeous artwork.

Marley’s artwork, like herself, is ebullient, brimming with an infectious enthusiasm.  However, this effervescence is grounded with believable characters and tight storytelling.  Check out her 5 part story in Forgetless to see for yourself.  While you are at it, buy the newest issue of Madame Xanadu (in stores now) which is completely penciled by Marley and kicks off Matt Wagner’s new “Extra-Sensory” storyline for the Vertigo tarot card reader.  Keep up with Marley Zarcone on her deviantart site.

And now, stormantic presents an exclusive interview with the most gracious Marley Zarcone!  I hope you enjoy it and choose to support her by purchasing her work!

Interview with Marley Zarcone

What is your earliest memory of drawing?

It’s hard to pin down what my earliest drawing memory is, since I constantly drew. I do remember drawing women with these massive bustles on the blank space in the insert cover of coloring books. My mom had piles of unfinished coloring books with drawings all over the inside covers. Probably would have been cheaper if she had left me with a stack of typing paper! haha

When did you decide that you wanted to draw comics professionally?

For a couple years after high school, I worked as a waitress and stopped drawing for some odd reason. One of my friends from high school convinced me that I needed to start drawing again and introduced me to a website where you create your own character and duel against other artists through comics. I was back in 100%, and realized that drawing comics is what I have passion for.

forgetless 4 cover by Marley Zarcone

Marley Zarcone’s cover to Forgetless #4

How did you get involved in working on Forgetless?

Nick Spencer contacted me through my deviantart account and asked if I wanted to participate on this hip, edgy comic he had conceived. I really loved the concept, and the characters were a lot of fun to design.

Who are your primary artistic influences?

There are a lot of them. I think Hirioka Samura’s work on Blade of the Immortal, Jordi Bernet’s work on Torpedo 1926 (incredible dry brush) and Manara’s work on Indian Summer are major influences. In elementary school, I spent a lot of time trying to emulate Andy Kubert’s and John Romita Jr.’s X-Men Blue and Gold Team pages, so I’m sure that’s left an imprint. Chris Bachalo’s work on the Death miniseries left a big impression too. I’ve taken in some pacing influence from women’s manga, and my former house mates at Yosh! in Seattle definitely had an influence on me as well.

Forgetless 5 Preview by Marley Zarcone

Artwork by Marley Zarcone from Forgetless #5

What is your artistic process when you approach a page? What tools of the trade do you use?

My process is pretty traditional I think, and I’m definitely a slave to my layouts. I pencil on 11×17 with a mechanical pencil, and there are always a couple retractable eraser pens nearby. When I’m inking, I use these super thin Hi-Tec C ballpoint gel pens to line out the whole page then I fill in and add finishing touches with a brush. Micron brush pens are really good for lining panel borders. I use photoshop for my coloring, but it’s all very simple. The biggest chore for me is picking the palette.

I’m very excited about your issue of Madame Xanadu! What was it like to work with Matt Wagner? What was his script like?

It’s been fantastic working with Matt. He’s such a legend and he’s produced so much incredible work. Mage is basically required reading at the comic store I used to work at, so I was very nervous in the beginning, but he’s an incredibly nice and laid back person. When it comes to the script, Matt does a great job, and knows when to give the artist breathing room and when to reel the artist in. He gave me a lot of terrific guidance throughout the whole project. I have some of the funniest thumbnails corrections from him!

Scummy (Page 1) from Popgun Volume 2 by Marley Zarcone
Scummy (Page 2) from Popgun Volume 2 by Marley Zarcone

Marley Zarcone’s “Scummy” story from Image Comics’ Popgun Volume Two

You’ve lived and worked in community with other artists such as Brandon GrahamCorey Lewis and of course, your husband James Stokoe. What were the challenges and rewards in spending large amounts of time with these artists in and out of Yosh! Studios?

It was a lot of fun. I definitely developed as an artist from that situation. Brandon introduced me to many incredible comics I had never heard of. The drawback was that I don’t think everybody produced as much work as they intended to. Well, except for James. Corey nicknamed James “pages” for good reason. It was still a great experience, and I made many terrific friends in the process. Its a major challenge to live in a home full of very strong minded individuals. We lasted a year, and I don’t think that’s too bad!

Do you have any information regarding upcoming projects that you can share?

Not at the moment, but there are books on the horizon!

What is your dream project? Are there any characters (self-created or otherwise) that you would like to draw?

I would love to draw Storm for you, Storm! Actually, I have loved Hellblazer for eons, so that would probably be a dream project for me.

Thank you Marley for taking the time to answer my questions.  This has been a treat!  I look forward to your new projects!