John Hebert: Mage of Pages- X-Men, The Punisher and the History of One Man’s Pencil By: Phil Sawyer
Written by Staff on July 31, 2021
Superman, Batman, Captain America, The Punisher, X-Men. All names that used to be known only to the comic book and movie geeks, now have become mainstream, even an eighty-year-old woman could tell you who Batman is. I recently sat down with Marvel comic book artist; John Hebert. We discussed his career and early start in the comic book industry during the 1980s.
RRX: So, John, when did you become interested in being a comic book artist, or artist in general?
JH: As a kid I lost my father when I was very young, and was raised by my mother and grandmother, and Channel 6 started broadcasting the strange show, Batman! And I was hooked! My favorite episode was a cliffhanger and I sweated for 24 hours! How would they get out of it? I actually drew it on my mother’s parlor wall…
RRX: So, what was your first exposure to the comic book world?
JH: When I was about 15 I was featured in a newspaper article about some of my artwork in the Troy Record and I always had an interest in drawing, and of course as a young kid, my mother introduced me to comic books. It was a way of helping me read through high school, and I was involved in plays, painting the scenery signs and I even designed the yearbook cover for my graduating class. I was always kind of the go-to guy for when somebody needed something drawn.
RRX: So, did you have any type of formal training?
JH: Drawing on my mother’s wall when I was seven. After high school, I attended Junior College of Albany (JCA) and met this amazing teacher, who saw my artwork and gave me a lot of instructions! As I progressed, she was able to introduce me to an artist who was active at the time with Marvel. Mike Zeck, who was working on Captain America and The Punisher. I received some great advice from him, and I graduated from JCA. My first professional artwork was introduced to me by a friend at a comic book store called Fantaco. It was one of the first comic book stores in the region, opening in 1979. My friend Rodger Green, who worked there, asked if I was still drawing, and I showed him my portfolio. His intern showed it to Tom Skulan who was publishing black and white comics. This was a time when color was king, so black and white was a daring venture. At the time, I called potted and drew an inch comic, called Sold Out. It ran for two issues and a mini-series, which featured at the time, and predicted the future of the comic book industry. So, before my 25th birthday, I was already a published author and artist, so it was really kind of a fun adventure! That’s how it started!
RRX: So, break down how a comic book is made.
JH: Well, you start with a script. Then you plot out the art as you want it to appear. Then you draw it and send it to an inker who darkens and retraces what you’ve drawn. Then you find a letterer who fills in the dialogue and a colorist who adds the appropriate colors which help bring the drawing to life. And of course, an editor has to approve the overall look and feel of the book. When it’s time to press, presto! You get your comic book. It’s generally done in the matter of two months ahead of its release, so, very fast pace.
RRX: Tell me about the comics you drew.
JH: The companies? Well, Comico, Marvel, Fantaco and so, so many others. I also drew a Dungeons and Dragons style comic for a few years for Steve Sullivan, called Twilight Empire. Which was great at the time! I drew, let’s see… The Punisher, X-Men Adventures,
Deathlock, Newstraila, Johnny Quest, and I was the first artist to adapt Ann Rice, who authored The Mummy books, but is also famous for the Vampire Lestat, adapted into a film with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, Interview with a Vampire, so that was exciting!
RRX: Who are your inspirations in the industry? Writers? Artists?
JH: Well, I worked with Mike Zeck, who at the time, was drawing Captain America and The Punisher. He was a major star in the industry and an amazing artist! And let’s see…worked on Stan Lee’s last published work as an artist, and of course, the legendary William Shatner on one of his books, so that was a fun project.
RRX: Working with Captain Kirk! Wow, and the legendary Stan Lee! Those are amazing names everyone knows!
JH: Yeah, it was cool!
RRX: So, what do you think of digital comics?
JH: Good and bad… I like the physical comic in my hand. I want to have it at my disposal as a keepsake. Some like digital, some don’t. Physical comics will always be here…
RRX: Do you have any advice for budding artists and writers?
JH: School! Draw and draw! If you’re a writer, write! Keep practicing and don’t give up!
RRX: By this time, a young, struggling artist named Jack Hebert came up to me and showed me his first published art and story! Jack is one of three of John’s children, and he is a seven-year-old twin to Brett. They’re younger brothers to their sister Ari. I teased John Hebert about his son being seven and already published! Good job, Jack! I believe he will follow in his dad’s long career in the business.
For artwork by original comic items and commission art work, contact John on Facebook at John Hebert. John was born and raised in the Troy, New York area and graduated from Troy High in 1983. He’s married to Jody Hebert and they have three great kids! Follow John on Facebook as he posts comic convention appearances!