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WWE Artist Rob Schamberger On Marvel Comics’ Influence On Him, Meeting Rob Liefeld, Love of Jack Kirby’s Work

October 5, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

WWE Artist in Residence Rob Schamberger discussed how Marvel Comics has influenced his work and even his decision to become a professional artist in a new interview with Marvel.com. You can check out the highlights below:

On his work as WWE Artist in Residence: “WWE’s never had an Artist in Residence before, so the biggest challenge has been building an audience for the work. There were enough early adopters to make it successful, and then the real work started on growing the number of people who appreciate what I’m doing. The fun? Dude, I paint wrestlers for a living and I do it with WWE.”

On Marvel Comics influencing him to want to pursue art professionally: “I was eight when my stepbrother got me my very first comic book, Incredibly Hulk #348. We spent the weekend redrawing all of our favorite panels and he said, ‘You know, people get paid to make these,’ and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be an artist. After that first taste, I was all in. The next time we went to the grocery store I beelined right to the spinner rack and bought Classic X-Men #30 with my allowance solely based on that rad Steve Lightle cover. Later I found out Steve is a fellow Kansas Citian which made the whole dream seem even more obtainable. Soon after that Rob Liefeld took over New Mutants, along with Jim Lee on Uncanny X-Men and Todd McFarlane on Amazing Spider-Man and I couldn’t get enough. Every piece of paper, every pencil went to me redrawing and studying every little thing those guys were doing.

“And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention John Buscema’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. That book sat next to me for years—until I lost it in a poker game, but that’s a story for another time—and is one of the single best books on how to develop the basic skills to be an artist. True story: When I was 13 I took a youth arts program at the Nelson Atkins Museum and they used it as a textbook!”

On how he got into wrestling art: “Around 2012 I moved away from making comics and focused on fine art, but even then I wasn’t making enough to do it full time. I realized I needed to find a subject matter to help me stand out and came across the old marketing maxim that you need at least one of three things to stand out: To be the first, to be the best, or to be completely different. And then it hit me that no one was doing dedicated fine art about pro wrestling. I figured, hey, I love art, I love wrestling, there’s a lot of visual cues shared between Super Hero art and pro wrestling, this is a natural fit. So in the early days of Kickstarter I did a project that made enough money for me to transition to full-time work as an artist and it’s been crazy since then. Within a year of that project WWE brought me under their umbrella and I’ve been working with them for seven years now.”

On his encounter with Rob Liefeld at San Diego Comic-Con: “I was up on a stage painting and I look down and there [he is] watching me. I jumped down, told him about how much his New Mutants and X-Force work impacted me as a kid and how it eventually led me to where I’m at now, and I got to thank him personally during such a big moment in my life. That was super cool.”

On his love of Jack Kirby’s Eternals: “It’s my favorite of his work, outside of that 2001: A Space Odyssey adaptation he did that made that movie finally make sense to me. Eternals is pure Jack. He was really going there with it and doing a sweeping tale about all of humanity with a never-before-seen scope in American comics. I know, I know, I’m going to get roasted online for that, but the human viewpoint Jack brought to Eternals made the whole thing seem even bigger, giving the reader a viewpoint character to experience all of this alongside. And that battle between Ikaris and the robot Hulk? The only thing I’ve seen on that scale outside of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira was Greg Pak and John Romita Jr.’s fight between Hulk and Sentry in World War Hulk.”

On his chief inspirations from comics: “I definitely keep coming back to Jack Kirby and John Buscema. Big John was an artists’ artist, making so much look so simple when it’s really not simple. The balance of his figures, the weight to them, how they’re positioned in motion, the environments they exist in, Buscema was constantly showing off what it would look like if a Renaissance artist was making comics. Especially that Conan the Barbarian work! Jack’s boundless imagination, creating things no one has ever seen before and unlocking the minds of so many people for so many generations—I argue that he’s America’s greatest artist. When you look at the body of work and the influence it’s had, you can’t dispute his importance to our overall culture. I hope that the art world is finally coming around to viewing him that way, because there’s a lot to mine there.”