Talking Thief of Thieves with Shawn Martinbrough

Thief of Thieves has become one of the more popular and enduring titles in The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment comic brand. A major reason for its success is artist Shawn Martinbrough.

I originally met Shawn at a number of DC area film screenings and being an incredibly humble guy considering his talent, I didn’t realize I’d enjoyed his work for many years in DC and Marvel titles. Shawn has been a longtime comics veteran with over 20 years of experience in the business. In addition to his current gig, he’s drawn some of the biggest and most popular characters in all of comics including a stint tackling Batman on Detective Comics with writer Greg Rucka, a Captain America special for Marvel Comics, a Luke Cage mini-series and released his own book How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling.

Thief of Thieves is about master thief Redmond and his efforts to avoid the FBI while pulling off daring heists. With the title set for a “soft reboot” with issue #32, I spoke with Shawn back at the New York Comic Con about what readers should expect, his upcoming projects including one that will appeal to both fans of Fame and Boardwalk Empire and what it’s like being a black artist in the comic book industry.

Thief of Thieves issue 25How would you describe your storytelling style?

A lot of people say that I have a very Noir style with high contrast style of storytelling. I very heavily influenced by TV and film so I hope that my art looks somewhat cinematic.

How did you hook up with Skybound?

I’d been working with Marvel and DC for about 20 years so [Kirkman] had seen my body of work building up to that and he reached out to me.

Why the reboot?

Well, it’s a matter of we’ve wrapped up all the major storylines we started with from issue 1. Basically, after Robert Kirkman reached out to me to work with him on this, he’d plotted out the story until about issue 20-25.  Then he brought in Nick Spencer, who wrote our first story arc and he was followed by James Asmus and Andy Diggle. Andy not only took the time to really build on it, but wrap up what they’ve already done so that’s why we’re calling it a fresh reboot. We’re making it fresh, more international and adding a lot of new characters.

People really enjoy the series. It’s been released in multiple editions from French, German, Brazilian and other countries. I’ve gone to different conventions around the world and people come up to me and say how much they really enjoy the work.

Catch up on the series here: Thief of Thieves, Vol. 1 (Thief of Thieves Tp)

What’s the experience been like working with Skybound?

It’s amazing. What’s really cool is thinking back when Rob reached out to me there were 3 people at Skybound and now he’s got a whole freaking company, a whole staff and the work he did has become this huge phenomenon. And it’s really great working with him while all this stuff has popped off.

With the rise of popularity do you see more opportunities for blacks to get into comics?

There have always been a healthy number of African-Americans in comics it’s just that comics are such a faceless medium unless you have a very ethnic sounding name would you know Shawn Martinbrough is a black guy, which is what I get a lot. But there are a lot of black artists working comics. There aren’t a lot of black writers out there, which hopefully is changing now.

The REN one sheetAre you planning on doing more writing in the future?

I’ve actually co-wrote a story with Joe Illidge called The REN for First Second Publishing. We pitched it like it’s Fame meets Boardwalk Empire set in the Harlem Renaissance. It’s a 200 page graphic novel. We got the script approved and have been writing it for past year or two. We’ve gone through two drafts already. We have an amazing story and we have a very talented artist Grey Williamson so hopefully that will be coming out in a year or so. Originally I was supposed to co-write it and then draw it, but that was around the time Robert Kirkman approached me with Thief of Thieves and so it wasn’t nailed down so I had to do TOT.

What’s the latest on the potential TV series?

They’d made a deal with Thief of Thieves when we first started. It was supposed to go to AMC, but that didn’t work so now it’s going to another network, so they’re developing it for TV as we speak.

How involved will you be with the series?

Probably. I’ve no idea. Robert tells me when things happen so we’ll see.

Shawn Martinbrough at NYCC 2015What’s that next big passion project for you?

What I’m really interested in now are projects with my own company Verge Entertainment. I’m excited because we have a number of original projects for TV, film and animation so hopefully have some big announcements coming up soon.

Any chance of Thief of Thieves action figures?

Hopefully when the TV show is announced that will kickstart a lot of new plans with Thief of Thieves.

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