By Morgan Olmstead
Athens resident Sandy Plunkett is a self-taught comic artist who has worked with the groups Marvel, DC, IDW, and Dark Horse. Sandy was influenced as a child by the Marvel comics Daredevil, Fantastic Four, and Spiderman. Morgan Olmstead of Beta Fish Magazine sat down with Plunkett to discuss the creative process of illustration and his career.
I began the interview by the most basic of nerd questions: how did he become interested in comic books? Due to his dyslexia as a child, he said, it was difficult for him to get into reading. When his mother obtained a Master’s degree in child psychology, she believed comic books would be able to help her son begin to enjoy reading. There was a janitor/family friend who worked in the building they lived in as Plunkett grew up in New York, and he would give Sandy hand-me-down comics that his children read. In the beginning, the comics were mostly Westerns or about war, but over time Sandy managed to find Daredevil, which developed his interest in Marvel Comics.
When Plunkett first started reading comics he was only vaguely aware of the men behind the artwork. After the artists left their series, Plunkett finally took notice. Names like Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko were inspirations for Plunkett as a young artist. When I asked what issues stood out for him as a child, Plunkett responded,
“It’s funny, because when you talk to people who get into comic books, almost always they are attached to comic books they first start to read … This was the mid-‘60s and the issue with Daredevil versus Namor … Two days later I went to the newsstand on 8th St. and 6th Ave. and I looked for more Daredevil. (The owner of the newsstand suggested another comic book with Fantastic Four) This is where Daredevil teamed up with Fantastic Four … they lost their powers … and had to defeat the world’s biggest super villain. (Issues #39 and #40 of Fantastic Four).”
As someone who owns The World of a Wayward Comic Book Artist: The Private Sketchbooks of S. Plunkett, I noticed Plunkett’s affinity toward many different art styles. Commercial artists do well because they hone in on one style of artwork and do not attempt to break out of their mold to become better artists. Plunkett is not one of those people. He chose to learn different skills that come with drawing, like coloring, water colors, landscapes and comic strips. He spent time learning how to ink and color as a way to get more control over his work. He said he believes that to become a successful artist he had to learn all the basics first and get a grip on what it means to be an artist. He said one of the greatest tips he got as a young illustrator was to learn how to draw the anatomy of human beings.
Coloring was once a very different process than what it is today. In the past, artists would photocopy the panels and use a 64-color palette to send to the printers, which indicated what color went where. When he arrived in Athens, Plunkett began to color his own work using a more modern sense of coloring. This segued into what he thinks of the use of computers in modern art. Plunkett said he believes that when they use computers, artists lose a bit of themselves to the art. When drawing with your hands, he said, a human element is there and the work is less mechanical.
As a huge comic book fan, I had to know who his favorite characters were to illustrate. Plunkett prefers the fantasy side of art like Conan or Doctor Strange. His first full story was Spiderman, who we both agreed has some of the best poses in superhero history. His work was very well received, although he worked very slowly. Plunkett said he enjoyed working for Marvel before it became the corporation it is today. He was able to experience Marvel as a scrappy company fighting for readership. It did not feel competitive at the time and the “superstars” were more available to help out and support younger artists.
Around the mid-‘80s, Plunkett took a visit from metropolitan New York and visited Athens, Ohio. He was having difficulties with the ever-changing speed and direction New York was travelling toward and visited a friend who lived in this part of Ohio. Plunkett said one of the things that attracted him most to this area was that he could play out some of his boyhood fantasies in the woods, and he was able to ride a bike down country lanes. While here, he became interested in sustainable living and the do-it-yourself atmosphere.
Now Plunkett works on commissions in the area and just recently was featured in the A1 Annual Anthology with his story “Tales of Old Fennario.” You can find his book, The World of a Wayward Comic Book Artist: The Private Sketchbooks of S. Plunkett in most of the bookstores on campus and also at The Wizards Guild, LLC. He suggests reading Jupiter’s Legacy by Frank Whitely and Mark Millar and the web comic Champ! by his friend Jedd Collins.d visited Athens, Ohio. He was having difficulties with the ever-changing speed and direction New York was travelling toward and visited a friend who lived in this part of Ohio. Plunkett said one of the things that attracted him most to this area was that he could play out some of his boyhood fantasies in the woods, and he was able to ride a bike down country lanes. While here, he became interested in sustainable living and the do-it-yourself atmosphere.
And the advice he gives to young artists thinking about entering illustration is simply: learn to live cheaply, learn to be frustrated and learn to enjoy your work.