Manny Galan interview by Sonic HQ (July 22, 1999)
From Sonic Retro
The following is an interview with Manny Galan by Lein of Sonic HQ. The interview is concerning his work on the Sonic the Hedgehog Archie comics.
Sonic HQ: What basic drawing advice would you give a young artist? Do you have any particular way that you start drawing a figure/background/angle?
Manny Galan: A) The best advice I can give is to draw, and draw all the time. Carry a sketchbook with you at all times and sketch on the go. I used to carry a sketchbook with me on the subway and would sketch people as quickly as possible before they got off the train.
B) Always be open to valid criticism. Constructive criticism is the only way an artist will get better. Really look at your work and try to find its weaknesses and focus on improving those areas. Young artists tend to have a chip on their shoulders and believe that there is nothing wrong with their work; this is what keeps them from becoming great artists.
C) Have patience. All things get better in time and believe in yourself.
And D) Rough everything out before starting.
Sonic HQ: Where do you get inspiration for your own "style" of drawing the characters? Do you consider the games or Sega of Japan's official art (like from the Sonic Jam museum or Sonic Screensaver)? If that's the case, do you have any favorite "scenes?"
Manny Galan: Well in the beginning I'm afraid, I was at a loss. I knew who the characters were because of the games. But I really wasn't sure how to handle the characters. I wanted to draw them how they appeared in the anime but knew SEGA wanted them to look as they were portrayed in the states. I ended up trying to figure it out as I went along. Which is a terrible way of doing things since the work ends up looking inconsistent.
In the beginning SEGA (or rather, their hired approval firm) would really bust my chops over Knuckles' shoes. It was ridiculous. They didn't understand how his shoes worked dimensionally and they constantly asked for redraws of his shoe lines.
As for the Sonic Jam museum and the screen saver I'm afraid I can't comment. My nephews have that stuff but I can't remember any of it clearly enough to say which is my favorite. (Senility sets in early these days).
Sonic HQ: What makes drawing a comic fun?
Manny Galan: In the beginning it was just the high of drawing characters I admired and loved reading about as I was growing up. That gets you by the first few years then it wears off and you realize it's a job like any other. I've been in the business 9 years this November and in that time I've been very fortunate to have drawn just about every character I have ever wanted to.
I'd have to say the best part of drawing comics is having your work become part of a character's history.
Sonic HQ: What was it like to work at Marvel Comics on "Transformers: Generation 2"?
Manny Galan: Boy, that was a while ago. But I remember it clearly. It was my first real ongoing assignment. The editor, Rob Tokar, was a friend of mine who felt I was ready to take on a regular assignment. When the artist originally assigned to the book (his name escapes me at the moment, again, senility) fell ridiculously behind and showed no signs of catching up, Rob called on me to take on the book. He knew how fast I was (I had once drawn a story for him in 4 days, it almost killed me) and was counting I could help out with the scheduling. If I remember correctly the book was behind 3 or 4 months, maybe more, and I managed to get it on schedule.
It was nuts. You can ask Jim Amash to back me up on this. He was the regular inker on the book and he also was working at light speed to get the book on track. As fast as we got the work done there would be more waiting immediately after. It was like constantly treading water. I felt great about getting the book on target and earning the name Golden Boy in the process (it would follow me to just about every office I would work for thereafter) but the work was not very good.
Sadly, this is the case with just about every job I've ever done. The time constraints on any given comic assignment are quite tight and seem to be behind schedule right from the point of conception. This is largely what I blame for my dissatisfaction with my work.
Sonic HQ: What is it like to work at Archie Comics?
Manny Galan: It's great. They gave me work when Marvel shut me out after years of service. Of course the pay is a lot less than what other companies are willing to pay, but they always pay on time and are appreciative of a job well done and they let you know it. I was given a bonus after my first year of service, something Marvel never did. Also I had job security, well, as much as one can have in this industry.
Sonic HQ: What part of your job do you like best?
Manny Galan: The best part of my job is the people I meet, like yourself and making kids happy by drawing goofy characters. And I get paid for it! It doesn't get any better than that.
Sonic HQ: What's your favorite issue of Sonic/Knuckles?
Manny Galan: I'd have to say I was at my zenith on Knuckles 17 and 18. I was really happy with the way the covers came out and I think my character designs were pretty strong for the Brother Hood. People love Spectre.
Sonic HQ: The characters have attracted audiences because of their unique personalities. Ever think about writing an issue?
Manny Galan: Well I did write 2 issues a while back and I'm in the process of illustrating them right now. Of course since I started to draw those stories I moved, got married and had a baby. So as you can imagine my time is at a premium.
Sonic HQ: Who's your favorite Freedom Fighter? Chaotix member (Julie-Su included)?
Manny Galan: I'd have to say Julie-Su is my fave Chaotix. I love her design and attitude.
Sonic HQ: What did you think of the two Sonic TV shows ("Saturday morning" & "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog") from a few years ago if you've seen them?
Manny Galan: I remember seeing them both and I couldn't stand Sonic's voice. But one was absolutely terrible. I can't remember which is which. But it was pretty weak. The anime was so gloriously beautiful that it only made the U.S. shows look worse.
Sonic HQ: Are you looking forward to "Sonic Underground", the new Sonic cartoon coming up?
Manny Galan: I'm interested in seeing what it's going to look like. As for not watching cartoons, I have to watch them at work, there are TV's every where force feeding us all the Nick shows and when I get home Cartoon Network is on in my studio almost 24 hours a day (don't let Nickelodeon know though). I love Dexter's Lab.
Sonic HQ: What other books have you worked on?
Manny Galan: Marvel Year in review '92. I think it was a few issues of What if? What the!?
Transformers series 2
Ghost Rider rides again
Morbius the Vampire (reprints)
Marvel Swimsuit issue
And more Marvel stuff than I can even remember.
Cartoon Network Presents
Sonic HQ: Have you worked with any of your Archie colleagues (i.e. Ken, Spaz, Karl Bollers, etc.) on any other non-Sonic projects?
Manny Galan: I'm afraid not. With the exception of a coloring book fiasco with Karl a few years ago.
Sonic HQ: What are your future plans for your career? Do you have a concept for a book?
Manny Galan: I have had a concept for a book for quite a while, since Junior High actually. I'm also planning on pitching several ideas to Nickelodeon. Some of which I'm extremely excited about and as soon as I've fleshed them out some more I'll let you know what they are. Nothing would please me more to see one of my characters make it to television and become a toy of some sort.
Sonic HQ: What do you think about the Knuckles comic dying?
Manny Galan: I don't think Knuckles will be canceled. Because of the strong and loyal audience it's built up through the years Archie would be crazy to end it. Knuckles still outsells the majority of super hero books out there so it would be a poor financial decision. Also, Justin is working his hardest to keep those types of things from happening.
Sonic HQ: Will you ever work on any other specials coming up?
Manny Galan: Well first I have to finish the 2 issues I wrote and then I'll see if I can find the time for anything else.
Sonic HQ: What are you working on right now?
Manny Galan: Several things actually. My 2 issues for Knuckles, a few video box covers for Nickelodeon, a few covers for Simon and Schuster's Ready to read books and some spot art for Nick Jr.
Sonic HQ: What will you work on?
Manny Galan: Lord only knows what tomorrow may bring. I'm just glad that I have so many opportunities these days when things are so rough for so many.
Sonic HQ: Would you ever think about going back to KNUCKLES comics? (The main story)
Manny Galan: I'd like to say that I would, but practically speaking it's doubtful. I have to keep going forward and advancing my career. Of course if the bug bit me I would sure go back and do a story arc.
Sonic HQ: Can you tell us anything about the future stories in KNUCKLES?
Manny Galan: I would if I knew any of it but I'm afraid Ken Penders is the only one who could tell you that. He's a twisted genius you know!
Sonic HQ: What inspired you to join the Archie crew and draw Sonic & Knux?
Manny Galan: Justin asked me if I would be interested in drawing an issue of Sonic one day and I said sure and I remember that I was asked to do a sample page and before I could even finish it I was asked to draw an issue a.s.a.p.! That then led to a Knuckles limited series which sold so well it spun into an ongoing series.
Sonic HQ: During your time illustrating Sonic & Knux there must have been some issues that you regard as your own favorites. What are they, in terms of your own work?
Manny Galan: Again I'd have to say Knuckles 17 and 18. I think they rocked. Also issue 12 and 13 weren't so bad.
Sonic HQ: Is there much room for "Add libbing" at all if the artist thinks of something different they may want to throw in?
Manny Galan: Well you should always tell the story as clearly as possible but feel free to combine panels whenever you think it will benefit the story and its pace and the page design. Generally the writer wants you to stick to the script but are open to any improvement you can make in the art. The better the story looks the better it reflects on everyone involved.
Sonic HQ: Has your work changed you in any way?
Manny Galan: Of course it's changed me. I've become a better artist for one thing. And I've become aware of how many people it actually reaches and sometimes inspires. It's a good feeling let me tell you.
Sonic HQ: If you had the choice to be in any other career, what would it be?
Manny Galan: I did try animation many years ago but got out of it quick when I realized how much work was involved. Probably toy design or something to do with video games.
Sonic HQ: If you didn't have to work, what would you be doing with your talents?
Manny Galan: I'd be using them for evil! But seriously, I'd probably be doing what I want to do. Paint and work with 3-D programs and try to get my characters published and animated.
Sonic HQ: Who are your favorite characters in comics you've grown up with?
Manny Galan: Batman and Spider-man are pretty much the tops for me. I loved the live action show when I was a kid. My first words were actually Batman. My mom tells me I would sing along with the intro to the show. I loved my Batman and Robin Mego toys and I wish I still had them. Anybody out there willing to trade some comic art for a set of those?
Currently I love the new Batman animated series style. Bruce Timm is a genius. His sense of style and ability to spot blacks is outstanding.
Sonic HQ: How does it feel filling Spaz's shoes as Knuckles cover artist?
Manny Galan: It's quite unnerving. The man is a meticulous artist. He's the George Perez of the Sonic universe. Also he is a fan favorite without par. So as you can imagine there are going to be people out there who are ready to scrutinize every aspect of your work and compare it to his and hate it. So you have to be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows.
Sonic HQ: Who were some of your favorite artists that you looked up to? How have they influenced you?
Manny Galan: Well, when I was a kid it was John Byrne and John Romita Sr. and Jr. But as I started to take art seriously I worshipped Adam Hughs. I tried to learn everything I could from his work. I tried to incorporate his style into my work whenever I could, but tried to let my own style evolve from it. I absorbed a lot of different people's work since then and that's how it usually goes. I'm still absorbing bits and pieces of other people's work that I like and try to learn and grow from it. There is something you can learn from everyone. I mean that. Keep your eyes and your mind open, and appreciate everything you see. Try to find some redeeming value in everything.
Sonic HQ: What kind of challenge would you like to pursue now?
Manny Galan: As I mentioned earlier in this interview I would really like to get one of my show ideas on the air and would be thrilled beyond belief if this ever happened. Aside from that I would love to see an action figure made out of my super hero characters. You know, like those 8" Marvel dolls with real fabric costumes. Those are neat; it's like being a kid again.
Sonic HQ: What is your most favorite piece of artwork you ever did?
Manny Galan: There really isn't a favorite. There have been some covers and pin ups I've done in the past that I adored and looking back on them now I see nothing but flaws. But that's the way it goes. My favorite current piece was my Rugrats cereal box for Post and now is my SpongeBob Square Pants/ Rocket Power cover I did for NICK magazine. A few months ago it was my Blue Falcon and DynoMutt story I did for D.C. Comics. It's always changing.
Sonic HQ: And finally... What is your greatest achievement in the art field?
Manny Galan: The fact that I'm even in it is an achievement. This is an unforgivingly difficult business to break into and even much harder to be successful in. But I think my greatest achievement is actually having fans. It's unbelievable, but there are actually people following my work. That just blows me away. My work is sitting in their collection. In their attics or kids room or they're eating something from a package I've drawn or playing with a premium toy I designed and it just bowls me over. I was getting on my bus for work one day and I saw a kid on his dad's shoulders and he was holding a CatDog watch I designed and I felt like a million bucks. That's what it's all about for me, the kids. Well, that and the money, but the former sounds so much nobler doesn't it?
Sonic HQ: ;) Well that's it for this interview! Just one more thing for an encore. Manny gave a little list of favorites to wrap this all up.
Manny Galan: Here are some personal facts:
Favorite color: RED
Favorite musicians: They Might Be Giants, The Smiths, The Cure, MORRISSEY, The Presidents of the United States and Cake
Favorite album to work to currently: "Prolonging the Magic" by Cake. This album is just flat out incredible.
Favorite video game: Right now it's "Ape Escape" on the PlayStation and WWF Warzone and Rogue Squadron on the Nintendo. Sorry SEGA but I can't afford a Dreamcast just yet.
Favorite toy: My imported Ken and Condor Joe 12" Gatchaman (known as G-Force in the U.S.A.) action dolls from Japan. A group of my best friends chipped in and got them for me for Christmas. It was the most touching gift I ever got.
Thing I would like you to know the most: Enjoy your life and do want ever you want. You can do it, whatever your dream is you can achieve it. Believe in yourself and leave your mark on the world.
-  at Sonic HQ.