Anybody involved in making comic books is a fan – a passionate, and to a certain degree, belligerent one at that. Enrique “Spike” Puig is one of those guys. He proves that passion and dedication to the thing you love can yield amazing results, which in his case, is an original character and story as part of Marvel’s big event, Spider-Verse. Spider-Verse is Marvel’s ambitious storyline involving every incarnation that has ever existed of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man over the past 50 plus years. There will also be some new versions, including Puig’s Arácnido Jr., and his adventures in the streets of Mexico City. Enrique worked with artist Francisco Herrera (Marvel, DC, Disney Dreamworks) and inker Fernanda Rizoga for something quite special. We caught up with Spike to get to know his career better, as well as some of his insights on the industry and comics themselves.
When did you first get into comics?
I grew up watching the Hanna-Barbera version of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. My first comic was given to me in 1988 by an uncle because I stood up for his daughter, my cousin. It was an Amazing Spider-Man although I can’t remember for sure what it was about. The first comic that made a big impact on me was X-Men Vs Fantastic Four, the second version; also the X-Men cartoons, because of the stories, they managed to tell a very complex mythological universe. That and Watchmen…I don’t think I need to talk about Watchmen.
It’s funny. If you go to see a superhero movie in DF, it’s very possible that you might be sitting besides the guy who draws X-Men
I used to go pretty much every afternoon after school to the Comics S.A. store on Universidad avenue. Many of my friends nowadays I made there, they used to be the cashiers and stuff. In fact the first time I submitted an idea to Marvel was through them, I was 15 and learning how to draw —I never could draw, though— and made some doodles at school. They answered me and said I was ripping off Thor, that I should learn how to write.
That’s great, to get an answer from the big boys.
That was the editor’s job, to look at the different proposals. Nowadays it’s very different, you can’t just send an email because that doesn’t exist. You have to do it professionally through the right channels. Back then, the editor was Bob Harras, he answered me personally. I was a bit heartbroken but I realized he wasn’t being mean, but rather being helpful. It forced me to learn how to write.
So you wanted to be the writer and the artist?
That’s the ideal setting. Producing a good comics requires good writing and good drawings, so if you can do both you’re alright; my go to example is Terry Moore because I haven’t read anything bad by him and he does everything. I took some drawing lessons but it simply didn’t work out for me.
So you kept polishing your style?
Actually, I was very disheartened, and that’s when I fully dedicated myself to music. I originally studied music production at Fermatta (music school) and I had a band for many years called The Graveyard Shift, I played with many other bands too, I collaborated at Ibero [Radio] and Reactor, interviewing bands. I was very into the Alicia scene back then when Hulespuma, Big Spin, Axpi, 301 Izquierda, and all of them played there. Those people too are still my friends to the day.
So when did you become serious about having a career in comic books?
When I was young I would say that I wanted to be a writer, astronaut, physician, scientist and firefighter. “Writer” was the constant every time someone asked what I wanted to be back then. And when I got let down by the music world —not that I don’t like music, but rather with modern music— I started writing scripts, completely self-taught by reading movie scripts; but I always wanted to make comic book scripts.
What is it about writing comics that appeal to you?
Writing comics is great because not only you are like a god like someone who writes a book and builds a world through pages, you can also see that world realized visually not like you imagined, but even better if you have a great artist with you. First of all, you have no budget restrictions; the cost of setting a scene on Mars or in a café are exactly the same. It’s also the closest you can get to see the translation from idea to the finished product as pure as it can be. I see it this way, film is the medium of directors, TV is the medium of the producers, theater is the medium of the actor, videogame is the medium of the player and comic books are the medium of the writer; and I’m not thinking less of the artists but it all starts from the axiomatic idea of the writer.
How did you came into contact with Marvel and the big industry?
I’m very into buying comics, I’m a big fan, I have my subscriptions and everything. Then I got into comic book journalism…actually, anything that has to do with comics I’m in. I write about comics, I translate, I do scripts. And those who are seriously into comic books, like involved in the day to day activities, we know each other because we are not that many; we go to the same places and frequent the same parties; thanks to my work as a journalist I started to get to know many authors who are from abroad. A friend of mine, Tim Seeley —he’s currently doing Grayson for DC and doing some stuff independently like Hack/Slash— we bonded over stuff we both love; he’s also an artist who later started writing, so he would ask me a lot about writing, advice and stuff. Also, some of the breaks I got came from applying to an open call made by Top Cow, who publish Witchblade, the editor is also a writer and he thinks that the next Alan Moore could be out there, but things are very hard for writers who don’t draw, and the industry can’t progress this way. It really helped me along with what I already was doing.
Do you think it’s more difficult now because comic books are so popular right now?
What I see is that comics are not that popular, but characters are on their best moment in history. Marvel makes, with their worst box office performance, much more money than a whole year of publishing comics, and that’s not a secret. But [comic books] are their creative department, they can’t have the other part without that process, they know it and that’s why it works.
Marvel makes, with their worst box office performance, much more money than a whole year of publishing comics…
Specifically, how did you start working at Marvel?
I started working with Marvel interpreting scripts, the first one I did was X-Treme X-Men with Rulo Valdés who was the artist. There’s a lot of artists here in Mexico who work for foreign markets, they are not only noteworthy, they also have exclusivity and such. I would be their middleman to get what was written to the finished page. I also work at the cons, I do translation on Q&As and usually I’m their hospitality because most of the time I already know them from when I have interviewed them. You develop friendships, they start seeing your work and they hear what others have to say.
How was it working for Spider-Verse and writing for a big event? It must be different than writing a one shot or for an on going series?
It’s three in one, because there was a need to create many characters. So I created a character for a stand alone that will be done in continuity. I know Dan Slott, he’s very creative…he’s like a child, he works well for Spider-Man because he gets the character, yes Peter Parker has his problems but at the end of the day, he can make the world a better place for everyone around him. The idea behind Spider-Verse was “let’s have fun with Spider-Man”, it has gotten very good reviews although people are talking about “event-fatigue”. It doesn’t ask too much from anyone. Besides, the creative team is massive, for my issue, Paco Herrera came out of retirement, Humberto Ramos was also involved. It’s all for celebrating Marvel’s most iconic character.
Have you come into contact with the notorious “comic book fan from hell”? What do you think about them?
Everyone involved in comics is an obsessive fan. Even Alan Moore can discuss Captain America for hours on his talks; I’m not joking, you can see it on YouTube. I think It pushes the medium to be the best it can because, if you can’t, then they’ll stop buying your stuff and criticize your like you wouldn’t believe; trolling is nothing new in comic book fandom. I rather have them than people who are PC without cause, like how they criticized Milo Manara for what he did with Spider-Woman. I know him, he’s an excellent person and many others had the privilege of hanging with him in 2013 when he came. People seem to confuse sexism with sexualization. It would be sexist if the Avengers fired Spider-Woman because she is a woman; but a beautiful woman with powers who kick villains’ ass, in my point of view is something girls should admire, because here’s someone who can do it all. What is more empowering than taking the reins of your own destiny? I think people who criticize this don’t read comics; they complain how they are no women in comic books and that’s just plain wrong. Just look at the X-Men, most of them are women.
You mentioned many names already, but I don’t think a lot of people are aware of how many Mexicans are involved in the comic book big leagues?
Its funny. If you go to see a superhero movie in, say, Plaza Universidad, it’s very possible that you might be sitting besides the guy who draws X-Men or the guy who inks whatever. Maybe there’s no industry here per se directed to the Mexican market, but there’s so much talent here that they get hired not just in the U.S. but also in Europe, for example there’s Tony Sandoval who has been working for years in France with people like Jodorowsky, and he’s incredibly impressive, he draws with both hands at the same time. The fact is…my mom doesn’t read comics, she wouldn’t know the credit says “Paco Medina” or “Humberto Ramos” or “Raúl Valdés” but people who read comics are more informed, but have you heard about the telenovela Rubí? Millions of people saw it and it’s based on a comic book written by Mrs. [Yolanda Vargas] Dulché and was put out by a publisher who became [prominent Mexican comic book publisher] Editorial Vid. They are so rooted in Mexican culture that, before there was a TV in every household, there was “fotonovelas” and romance comics that were bought by women, not children. Historically, Mexicans have been very much involved with fantasy characters and comics; in fact, the biggest entertainment industry from the Fifties to the Seventies was comic books, so much that we were the only country to publish 24-page comics on a daily basis; that has never been done anywhere else. A lot of people are looking for the “Mexican superhero”, in my opinion, people should focus on doing a great story and a great character; if you think it’s relevant to him or her to be running among the nopales, then go ahead and do it, but you shouldn’t focus only in that.
Spike will be signing copies of Spider-Verse #2 at Fantastico Comicastle Del Valle in Mexico City this Friday 16, Saturday 17 at Decomixado, and on Saturday 24 he will be joined by inker Fernanda Rizoga for another round of signing at Fantastico Comicastle Del Valle.