Cyborg INTERVIEW WITH artist JUDIT TONDORA
In late 2016 Dynamite Comics and DC Comics published the first ever Bionic Woman /Wonder Woman cross-over comic. Set in the TV series universe of the late 70's the title teams Jaime Sommers with Diana Prince. The title has been incredibly well received by both fans and critics and we are homorued that series artist, Judit Tondora, has been gracious enough to allow us to interview her.
For people not familiar with your work, could you give us a brief resume of your
work/background IN comics?
If I remember right, I drew my first ‘grown up’ comic in 2008. That was for a very small
independent/basement publisher from the States. We literally worked for fun only. But you
know, it was easy to see that I like this work and I’m pretty good at it. I didn’t risk anything then because when I started to work in comics I was a university student. I had time, I got a scholarship, and comic book drawing was something that I always wanted to have a try. So I did it. After that small gig I got a contract from another indy publisher to draw one of their titles, We The People. That was a very entertaining book actually. That comic wasn’t published, sadly. However, it was real fun stuff. This book gave me a small taste of real comic book drawing and this was the reason why I decided to actually learn, how to draw comics. I have a BA in graphic arts, but I haven't studied anything about comic art. (Comic books are not a thing in Hungary and the genre has a very limited audience.) But thanks to my film studies, I have the typical filmmaker viewpoint that helps me to build visually narrative layouts and improve the look of my works. When I started to work on my next assignment, the Neelakshi, I was more aware but not really well-practiced. This practice came in time and thanks to David Campiti’s very wise advice, who is the owner and leader of the Glass House Graphics agency for comic artists and illustrators, I started to improve a lot. After a few jobs with Zenescope, Arcana, and a small Australian publisher, where I had to paint a series, I gained a lot to have a try at something bigger. This was the time when David told me to draw a few Wonder Woman sketches and character sheets because they have something interesting on their plate and perhaps I can get a piece from that cake. He sent my sketches to Andy Mangels, who is the writer of the series and to Matt Idelson, who’s the senior editor of Dynamite Entertainment, and they all liked the characters and that retro- ish style, that I use. And we’re here. We’re working on the third issue and we try to make it better and better. My good old colorist colleague Roland Pilcz is working with us from the second issue. He creates amazingly good looking colored pages.
I was intrigued if you search your name under Wiki, it brings up Hungarian comics. How
is the Hungarian comic industry?
It is very small and there are a few dozen titles only. Those who read comics read American, French and Belgian, Italian comics, and Asian manga usually. There are enthusiastic comic makers who try to create and publish their books in Hungarian of course, but they can only sell a few hundred copies of their works. Those who work in this industry and want to create comics seriously work for French and American publishers usually. If I’m not mistaken, we can only talk about 5-6 artists who work as comic artists and do comic illustrations.
Which comics did you read as a child, that inspired you to get into the industry?
When I was a child there were more titles and monthly comics than nowadays. Archie was
always one of my favorites. I also liked Asterix books, Pif, Tin Tin, Smurfs comics, The
Care Bears, Goliat, Pink Panther, Barbie and of course Spiderman, Superman, X- Men,
Transformers and so on. And Hungarian comics were quite popular then. There was a
monthly publication called “Füles” that contained 2-4 comics, mainly comic adaptations of
famous Hungarian novels. When I was very young I drew my own version of X- Men and Peter Pan and I also tried to create my own characters and figures. That was the first step on my way to illustration and comic jobs I think. My childhood dream was animation. I intended to be a Disney animator and draw or direct animated movies. But I can see now that comics is also a good choice. It gives a lot of freedom and space to be creative.
What was your first introduction to the Bionic shows? Did you know of them before
working on the book?
Yes, I had the chance to watch a few episodes on German television when I was a kid. I was very young then and I didn’t fully understand what was going on because of my limited
German language knowledge, but the series was absolutely remarkable. Especially to see a
tall, athletic, blonde lady, who looks like the adult version of me, doing those amazing jumps and she was able to hear everyone. I very much liked it.
What was the experience like working with Dynamite Comics, against any of the other
I have limited experience in working with publishers because I came from the independent
comic field. This is the second time I’ve worked with an established publisher and, I have to tell you, I quite enjoy this position. I have limited responsibility for the publication, which is refreshing because I’m usually responsible for everything, for pencils, inks, even colors and lettering. I do the editorial job too almost all the time and so on. Dynamite is way more well- staffed to compared with my previous employers. Also, they have a lot of experience and want to make likeable books. They have a great editorial team, I'm working with editor Matt Idelson and writer Andy Mangels, who is the heart and soul of this project. So, I really have no cause to complain. Between the creative people and Dynamite, this is one of the most supportive and communicative teams that I’ve ever seen.
What research did you do once you knew you would be working on the title?
Andy helped me a lot and provided me a ton of reference materials. He sent me pictures, old comics from the 70’s, videos, even Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman music. I spent weeks learning the characters, not only their names and positions, but their main features,
especially the facial features. I’m watching episodes of both shows when I have time. These help me a lot to gain more info and feel the vibe of this era and the characters.
How long is for you to complete a script for one issue, from start to finish? What does
your working day look like?
The first issue took me one and a half months if I remember right. There was too much new information to deal with and that’s why this process took me a little bit more time than
what’s usual. I spend the mornings with reading messages, working on the layouts and I
draw the pencils during the afternoons. When I’m working on a project I usually switch off
everything else and I try to concentrate on the work mainly. When I want to rest a little, I do yoga, I lead classes weekly, or I spend some time with friends. But this free time is really limited and my buddies complain a lot, but this is the life of freelance artists. We must work a lot and try to give our best all the time because we’re responsible for our team members and the product too.
How did you go about capturing the feel of the era in terms of clothes, building,
My parents were young in the seventies and I checked out their old photos and I asked them about the fashion and style and history and so on. I also got a lot of references from old fashion magazines and books. I watched a lot of videos and movies and Andy sends me references if he wants me to draw a certain building or look. I have many, many sources actually.
I've seen some of the drawings from the character sheets you've done of Jamie Sommers
and they look great in terms of hair, clothes and likeness. I think the fans are going to be
very pleased with the new book.
Oh, I hope so. I actually use a retro-like style, but I modify it a little to emphasize the style elements of this era. Hair and eyes get the most attention but I also use thick and dynamic outlines to stress the curves and make the characters more eye catching.
What medium do you prefer to work in?
Traditional pencils and inks, but I have a Wacom tablet, of course, and I have future plans to improve my technique and switch to digital when that’s necessary because of deadlines or style reasons.
I've seen the artwork on your Facebook shop page and love the Psylocke piece, as I'm a
big X-Men fan. Is there any chance you'll be offering any art from new book (ready made
Well, if I get permission from the publishers and licensors and from my agent, of course. I’ll definitely look for opportunities where I can sell originals.
How was the process when working with Andy Mangels. How did you find his scripts to
work from, did he make any suggestions for style or specific content he wanted?
I think Andy is the only writer who can write this book. He not only has brilliant ideas to
make the series outstanding and write a very exciting and interesting storyline but he is able to give a remarkable warm and nostalgic feeling to the book that makes the comic very likeable. I was born in the 80’s but his ideas and descriptions and his supportive work
method makes everything familiar and this also makes the creative process way more easy and smooth. He always has specific suggestions how to draw the given page or panel. He totally sees the “film” in his head. He has the typical movie maker mind as well and this is the key element in our collaboration. I’m actually a trained filmmaker and when I’m reading his script I can see the scenes perfectly.
What would you say the biggest challenge/hurdle was for you, working on the new
I think the likeness issue is an interesting challenge because I don’t want to draw too
realistic, picture-like characters. My aim was to draw a comic book, not a photo album and
this is the reason why I use a more cartoony style. When you read a too realistic book that
can easily distract your attention from the storyline, from the actions, especially if we’re
talking about a superhero comic book. Our aim was to draw a fun comic, using retro-ish
style and make the characters comic-looking, but recognizable.
If you had the chance to work with one character/team at Marvel/DC who would it be
I prefer female characters, especially those who have rich pasts, like Catwoman or Wonder
Woman, of course. Or have issues in their life that makes them very human, like Supergirl, or Rogue. There are comic artists who don't like to draw established characters because they say there’s no challenge in drawing these characters. Well, I think there’s a challenge in everything, but that depends on your point of view. And there are fun characters, like Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn who are actually bad girls, but they give you a lot of chances to draw their different personalities. And sure, working on well-known characters is always risky, but if you do it right, the final product can be remarkable. I also enjoyed drawing X- Men samples a few years ago and working on my latest 75th
anniversary Captain America sketch cards for Upper Deck was a new experience in drawing
famous male characters. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve got a few messages from collectors
regarding this set and the overall reaction was very good. And if we’re talking about team comics, I just love JLA, Birds of Prey, Suicide Squad and Guardians of The Galaxy. I just like the choreography of their team actions and I really enjoy reading about their dynamic relationships. Drawing these scenes would be a nice fun, I’m sure about that.
If you could choose one artist to work with, living or deceased, who would it be?
This is a very complicated question and I think I won’t be able to answer it properly because there are so many artists, my idols, who are in my dream team. But, of course, it is always an amazing experience and a great honor to see the work of amazing artists, like Cat Staggs, Alex Ross and Michael Adams on the cover of the book I’m working on. I just can’t wait to see who's next!
Which comics did you read as a child, that inspired you to get into the industry?
This is totally the fault of the Archie comics, the Batman and the X- Men series. These are
responsible for everything. And that funny little gal Astérix. Haha!
What could you tease fans with about what they might see in the new series?
Oh, god! I wish I could! But I’m not allowed to talk about the details. I’m so deeply sorry
guys. But if you’re aware enough, you can see interesting things on the cover… Jamie and
the invisible plane…and you can see a familiar dog face on the cover of the next issue. Trust me, there will be more! Much more!
All art copyright Judit Tondara, DC Comics & Dynamite comics 2017