Spectacular Spider-Man #14

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spectacular Spider-Man #14, Page 6 (panels 3-4 detail).
2004. Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".

I must admit, when I first read Paul Jenkin's script for the issue, I was more than a little disconcerted. Essentially, he was asking me to faithfully portray a spastic, quadriplegic young man who was confined to a wheelchair by cerebral palsy and utterly dependent on his family for the most basic of necessities... in the same story as Spider-Man. This being my first full issue for Marvel, not to mention my first crack at the flagship character, I was very nervous about making a first impression.

Spectacular Spider-Man #14, Page 4.
2004. Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".

I had just moved to Brooklyn with three other friends from school and, as would soon become quite common, I asked one of them if he would be willing to play the part. Ryan Dunn was the roommate that I knew the least well, so this was a fairly interesting way to get to know him better. He did a fantastic job, studying all of the reference I had collected and following my directions perfectly.

The book garnered a great response when it hit the stands, which was a huge relief. In addition to the honest depiction of our main character, Joey, I think the naturalistic, painted style made my job much easier—I don't think the same story would fly in my current "cartoony" style, to say the least.

I should add that after publication, Ryan found himself at a beer garden in Queens with a large group of people, close friends and otherwise. As the night wore on, his short-lived "modeling" career came up in conversation. A guy—who, apparently, read Spider-Man—said, "Dude! I thought you looked familiar!"

A big thanks goes out to Ryan for letting those photos go public. To make it up to him (and because it's slightly more embarrassing) here's an example from his actual modeling career, a photo shoot for Topic Magazine.

Spectacular Spider-Man #14, Page 20 (panel 3 detail).
2004. Oil on masonite, 16 x 24".

Of course, no wacky reference post would be complete without an embarrassing picture of me, so here I am dressed up as Spider-Man, having a heart to heart with Joey. I had a full-on beard under that mask—it was itchy. My 'rents provided the custom costume, while three months of no exercise and eating cookies to stay awake provided the kankles.


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  2. Dude! I loved reading this issue. I was really moved by it. Great stuff as always.

    I love the reference photos. SO FUNNY. Since I, myself use the same method now, I have a collection of silly pics and showed my friends. It led to them on the floor hysterically laughing. Thanks Paolo! haha

    -Francis Boncales

  3. That was the issue that first turned me on to your work. Both the story and the art just blew me away! And then a short while later I was lucky enough to get you to do a killer MADMAN commission for me!
    Chad Blakely

  4. Francis, be sure to save those pics... they'll be even funnier in a few years.

    Chad, I remember the commission well. Thanks for reminding me. My mind is always fried at those cons, so it's nice to make a connection outside of the hustle and bustle.

  5. Man! This is AWESOME! HUGE THANKS FOR THE ART. I FELL LIKE I HAVE AN Picasso or something! I love your work.


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