Comic books are a global enterprise. Not only are they sold across the globe, but the talent that comprises the creative teams behind them reside all over the world. Our first artist feature takes us to Greece where we had the opportunity to interview Nikos Koutsis and Mike Toris, the talented artists/colorists behind some of IDW’s and Image Comics’ most popular titles, including November’s Savage Dragon #200.
CA: How did you break into comics?
NK: Well, although I started my professional career working as a commercial/editorial illustrator earning myself good money, I wasn’t feeling very happy. At some point, I made a decision to go in another direction and express myself by doing comics for a living. I started attending the San Diego and NY comics conventions and before you know it, I was penciling and coloring Mike Miller’s The Imaginaries Vol 2. One thing led to another and I was fortunate enough to find myself coloring Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon on-going series regularly. Everybody was happy with this, myself included, so this led to an unexpected professional colorist’s career! I was loaded with work and I needed a hand and this was when Mike Toris lent me one! Thanks to our work on Erik’s book we moved onto coloring multiple Image Comics titles like the Image United project, a 3 issue fill in on Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, and Frank Cho’s 50 Girls 50. A couple more highlights are Marvel’s Thor Omnibus by Walt Simonson where we’ve colored a good share of the remastered pages under Steve Oliffe’s supervision, and IDW’s Angry Birds: Transformers which Mike and I are now coloring as we speak!
MT: It was thanks to Nikos’ urging to form an artistic team. I used to be his student and later on he gave me the opportunity to work with him, being his partner. I tried my best and now, 7 years later, we’ve colored more than 2000 pages together!
CA: What’s your process? How do you two like to work?
NK: When I’m coloring on other artists’ pages, I already have flat colors prepared by Mike, where he’s used color choices from color palettes we’ve both created. He also prepares channel masks for color fx, does reference research whenever needed, digi-inks my pencils if I’m penciling and generally, he reminds me that life is better when you share the goods with others!
MT: Since we’ve established the way we approach our part of the work, it’s all pretty straight forward. Nikos loves to draw and color, I love to ink and create the flat colored areas. We’re both having a good time and enjoy the most of it!
CA: What tools do you use to create and color comics and what makes them the “right tools” for you?
NK: I have to confess that I no longer use traditional media for my penciled or colored art! A Wacom’s Cintiq 24HD and an iMac are both powerful tools and there’s where I squeeze my brain and digital brushes to give birth to my lay-outs, pencils or colors. So it’s all a digital world for me now! I should also mention that Adobe’s Photoshop is always my No.1 choice of software for drawing and coloring and Google is my library for reference. These are all I need!!
MT: I grew up during the digital revolution of comics, so it was inevitable to develop my digital skills before I’d go after working in the comics field. Nowadays I have an endless stock of digital tools and effects at my disposal and a few deadlines to hit!!
CA: How would you describe your style?
NK: Back in the day, I earned myself the opportunity to be trained as an assistant at the Disney Consumer Products studios in Paris, where I’ve learned some tips and tricks of the job, structure and designing rules “the Disney way”. This and the fact that I grew up reading the super hero books mostly, being influenced by “the Marvel way” so much, well… my style couldn’t help but being kind of a Disney-Marvel amalgam!
MT: Hmm… Crispy and flat?!
CA: Are you working on anything right now?
NK: Penciling/coloring a Savage Dragon #200 backup story, hitting the selves in November, just delivered my Savage Dragon #199 colored pages and waiting for the first batch of the #200 ones any minute now, coloring Angry Birds: Transformers #2, teaching Comics Art at Vakalo College of Art and Design and trying to have a life at the same time (which I do have)!!
MT: Inking/flatting Nikos’ backup story for November’s long awaited Savage Dragon #200. Flatting Scott James’ backup story for the very same issue while waiting for pages of Erik’s main story to arrive. Also flatting the second issue of Angry Birds: Transformers miniseries for IDW and coloring/lettering a 70 page graphic novel called Navar: Executioners of Faith for the Greek publications Comicword.
CA: What does it feel like to be penciling, inking and colouring a backup story in Savage Dragon #200?
NK: I’m glad Savage Dragon has been part of my life for a long while and the least I could do to show my respects to Erik Larsen is to give my best shot and illustrate this backup story of his the best I can! I’m enjoying every minute and I look forward to seeing it out there!
MT: I feel blessed that I’m part of a creative team working on such a book! I’ve inked/flatted Erik’s-Nikos’ Vanguard backup story for Savage Dragon #150 and now I have the opportunity to celebrate the birth of the 200th smash issue, working on Erik and Nikos’ backup story, once again, featuring the SOS super team!
CA: What or who inspires you most?
NK: I really need more than a day’s time to actually answer this one the way it deserves to be answered! Is it Da Vinci’s studies? Michelangelo’s paintings, or ancient Greek black-figure pottery? Is it the wooden textures on the trees? Maybe it’s Ryan Ottley’s Art, or Joe Madureira’s! Or Todd Nauck’s! I dunno!!
MT: I can’t think of something specific. I just need to express myself through the world of comics. As a kid I loved to read and study them and I can’t imagine doing anything else…
CA: What advice would you give to young artists getting started?
NK: They should attend my workshop lessons! 😉
MT: Work, work harder and then work a little more.
CA: Can you remember the first thing you ever drew/created?
NK: I was too young to remember! No kidding! I’ve been holding a pencil as long as I can remember!
MT: Without a doubt, one of my best memories is a 6-page Asterix comic I created, photocopied and started selling in elementary school!
CA: If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
NK: I’ve got plenty of superpowers already! They keep me standing up!
MT: The ability to stop time to read more comics.
CA: What is your dream project to work on?
NK: What I’m dreaming of is to stop having deadlines and start writing my own scripts. Then pencil and color my stories. And then get them out there somehow…
MT: The two comic book characters that inspired me to become a comics artist in the first place. The hot tempered short Gaul warrior whose stories threw me into the cauldron with the magic potion of comics, and the friendly neighbourhood guy in whose spinning webs I got tangled for eternity….