We interviewed a veteran international illustrator for some advice! Interview with E.J. Su, who specializes in mecha design.
He worked for Transformers & ATOM !? We interviewed E.J Su who has more than 20 years of experience as a pro designer! He is a highly skilled and experienced designer/illustrator, and we asked him about his work , experience and advice!
20 years of professional career!
E.J.Su：My name is E.J.Su, I was born in Taiwan, moved to US when I was 14. My background is industrial design, but I've wanted to draw and create comic books ever since I was a little kid.
I am currently working as freelance artist, mostly working on comic books interior pages and covers for Image, IDW and Marvel, but I also do concept designs for toys, animation and products.
E.J.Su：IDW picked up Transformers comic book license back in 2005, I was fortunate enough to came on board to work on their main title. It was extremely exciting project for me since I get to design a lot of the Generation 1 Transformers to a more modern version.
There was no mandate to have the designs to be based on existing toys, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Due to my work on Transformers, I was asked to create a variant cover for Marvel's Avengers Mecha Strike Force #1, it was a brand new series where each Avengers have their own Hulkbuster-like mecha suit.
Growing up as a kid in Taiwan, I was hugely influenced by comics and cartoons created by Tezuka Osamu, and when IDW got the license for creating the comic adaptation of Astroboy 3D animated movie, the property was very dear to my heart that I had to be part of it.
E.J.Su：In the early Transformers cartoons, when a vehicle transforms to robot mode, the animators resize or most of time hid away vehicle parts to allow robots to be more human proportion. One of the thing that I focusing on when I design Transformers, was to make sure vehicle parts aren't cheated in transformation.
Every part should transform proportionally and you should able to tell which part of the robot is the vehicle. I aimed to create something that you could actually transform in real life.
E.J.Su：It is very exciting to work on projects with such rich history, but at the same time, there's always a huge fan base that feels very passionate about the property and would put your work under the microscope and analyse closely.
The pressure of being on Transformers was particularly high. Transformers comics were coming off a long run of comics from Dreamwave, and I was never part of the Dreamwave crew, fans already have their favorite artists. Nobody was expecting to see someone who they have never heard of to take over the art duty. 'Nervous' can't even describe how I felt at the time.
E.J.Su：I started out loving to draw, didn't think much about designing at very young age, but I think thinking mechanically has always been with me, I like to take things apart and study how they work. How things work facinates me, so maybe the designer has always been in me. It would be hard to know what comes first.
E.J.Su：During my tenure as industrial designer, I used to work with CAD everyday as I also do my own mechanical engineer on the products that I designed. I tends to work out the mechanical engineer before getting to the product designs.
When it comes to drawing comic books, if I come across a mechanical object that need to draw multiple times throughout the story, I would create a 3D model to be used in my panels to save setting up the perspective.
For example, on a recent book that I worked on, there was a battle scene where hundreds of soldiers carries same futuristic weapon, as well as futuristic tanks that appears in a span of 10 - 20 pages. It would takes a lot of time to draw and redraw these tanks and guns all in different angles and different perspective. I think 3D is perfect solution for situation such as this.
What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's important to know how to draw with accurate perspective before relying on 3D tools?
E.J.Su：I am never a fan of skipping understanding the rules. Assuming an artist was able to get by relying on 3D tools without learning the fundamental, that would limit what the artist can do when those tools aren't available to them.
It's just like I see young artists these days trying to learn anatomy from 3D posing apps that is available everywhere nowaday, but you can't really learn anatomy from 3D poses, there are so many subtle details in human structure that can't be emulated in 3D yet. 3D are tools for people who at least have basic understanding of how things work.
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