Comic book artist Gabe Eltaeb – formerly of DC Comics and Dark Horse and currently collaborating with Eric July on the Rippaverse – was kind enough to talk to me about his experience in the comic industry.
BlabberingCollector: At what age did you pick up your first comic book?
Gabe: I was at my friend Sean’s house in 1991 or 1992. I’m forty-four years old now, so I don’t remember. I had seen comics before at 7/11 and stuff, but we were messing around with his toys in his room, and he had X-Men #1 by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Chris Claremont. It is the highest-selling comic book of all time. He also had Ghost Rider #25 with the glow-in-the-dark Ghost Rider cover. And when I saw the Beast leaping over a rock in X-Men #1… I had just never seen anything like it. I asked Sean, “What is this?” And he was like, “Oh, the X-Men. They made a new comic.” I decided in that moment that I was going to be a comic book artist, as I had been drawing all my life. I was going to be Jim Lee’s friend and work for him and all that.
BC: When did you realize you could draw?
G: Forever! I don’t remember ever starting. I always loved it! It goes back before my memories. I always had a crayon or something in my hand. My grandparents opened up a restaurant after WWII in Colorado. My parents were off at work, my brother was in kindergarten, so I would hang out at the restaurant in the kitchen or in the parking lot. But if I was in the kitchen, I would pull out sheets of butcher paper on the giant rolls that were hundreds of feet long and draw Star Wars space battles. I was born in 1978, and I remember seeing Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in the theaters when I was on vacation in Hawaii. In fact, I have all the Star Wars figures from the 1970s stored in boxes. Star Wars was my first love, and that is what I remember first drawing.
BC: Who is your favorite superhero character? Is there a particular reason?
G: It was Spider-Man. My son is named Peter, actually. I had gotten my hands on those Marvel Essential Reprints back in 1997 and 1998, right before he was born. And then John Romita Jr. was doing a great run on Spider-Man in the late 90s when my son was born in 1999. Not so much nowadays; I haven’t bought a comic in five years. I will buy a book or graphic novel purely for the art – I love those IDW Artist’s Editions – but I think a lot of people love Batman, like The Animated Series.
But my favorite comic book character right now is Max Volkov from my upcoming independent comic book called Beef Law that I’ll be doing next year. It’s basically a 1990s Van Damme movie. I’m drawing it right now. Max means a lot to me. It’s amazing. He fights illegal underground tournaments in Hong Kong in the 90s! It’s got Chinese and Russian mafias and fights down by the docks. My own creation is probably my favorite.
BC: Can you tell me the story of how DC hired you?
BC: Was it difficult to leave? Do you ever regret it?
G: It was very scary leaving. Imagine you’re a little boy or girl [who dreams] of being a comic book artist. And your favorite artist at your favorite studio. It was very competitive. I put so much work into it, and then I had to say, “No.” And I had to leave because DC wanted to create evil. I’m not going to make identity politics comics. This is such a beautiful, original, American art form. I will not put my name on the generation of writers who ruined this. You guys want to do that? Do that without me! And when Tom Taylor wanted to get rid of Superman’s slogan, that is what really did it for me. It really irked me. The implication there from these leftist narcissists is to forget about those 75 years of history; “I’m here to tell you what is better.” Their egos are outsized. They see themselves as God-like people. They treat their fans like, “Oh, you may kiss the ring.”
Being independence-based, it’s a brotherhood! With artists and my fans on social media like YouTube and Twitter, if you like what I’m saying, follow me and buy my book! If you’re tired of what is going on, what Disney and WB are doing, how they are treating their fans, then support me! The way we lost our culture is by giving up on the arts because politics stem from culture. When the counter-culture started to brew and take off in the 60s, I think a problem with people like me was that we were so disgusted by the arts that we checked out of the arts and declared that the “art was filthy.” And that was a mistake. Art isn’t filthy. Filthy art is filthy. We lost our culture to it because, for forty and fifty years now, kids have been listening, reading, and watching filth, and it’s just accelerating at an exponential pace, how dirty it is getting. And the concept of what is evil keeps moving and moving to the left.
This is how we win it back. By doing what I did; having the balls to stand up on principle and say, “This was my little boy [or girl] dream, but I don’t care because my culture, my family, my God, and my country are more important than my dreams, and I need to do something about it. Everyone is watching? Well, then I’m going to be the man who takes action. And if you can’t act or draw or sing like me, then don’t make the art; buy the art. These things are not free to publish, they aren’t free to work on or mail to, but you gotta buy it! You want them to stop ruining Obi-Wan Kenobi? You want them to stop ruining Tomb Raider and everything you love? And I love it too! Stories are so important. They are the number one form of persuasion. Persuasion is so important. They make a point. If I tell you, “That is bad,” well, that doesn’t resonate! But if I tell you a whole story about why something is bad, and you shouldn’t do it, and how it affects people, and you take it personally, then you internalize that. So we gotta quit losing our culture by giving it to these psychos! We have to stand up! They are going to call you all these names like “racist” and “homophobe.” Who cares? We are strong together; we can stand up to these people.
BC: That was very eloquent! I like that a lot.
G: Thank you! I mean what I’m saying. I made six figures a year, easily, as a mainstream freelance comic book artist. I could have kept my head down and have been fine. I’m Mexican and Libyan; I could be a Vice President at WB. All I would have to say is, “White people are terrible. America sucks. Trump is an idiot.” If I just say the words, they will reward me. A lot of comic book pros out there disagree with the woke messaging in secret, but you take the money. Now, I’m going to call you cowardly, but ask yourself if it is cowardly. I did it too. I have a mortgage in California, and it isn’t cheap. I kept my head down because it wasn’t my books. But then they got progressively more woke to the point where they were like: “Hey Gabe, you’re going to make a Superman that gives the middle finger to your culture.” And I was like, “I’m not doing that.” I’m sorry; maybe I should have said something sooner. But at least I said something.
BC: I asked Eric July this question, but I want to ask you as well because you worked in the industry; do you think DC and Marvel can be saved, and if so, how?
BC: Do you have any YouTube goals for your channel?
G: Yes! A lot of subs and views for my channel! I want to have a lot of fun with my fans on YouTube. I was at around 7,000 two weeks ago; now, I am at 8,000. I would love to get it to over 10,000 over August.
BC: Your YouTube description says, “Believe in systems, not goals.” What do you mean?
G: Focus on the current step. Take one step at a time. If you focus on today, what it is you want to improve right now? If you keep doing that long enough, you will get to the goal. People get so low with their confidence that they think these dreams are for other people. NO! If one man or woman can do something, then anyone can! It’s all just steps. You are capable of living a life where they build a statue of you after you’re gone.
BC: How did you get into contact with Eric July?
G: Via Ethan Van Sciver! We had been talking secretly for years. I went on his show and publicly announced my opinions. He gave me some work, and then he told me, “You are gonna want to talk to Eric July. He is looking for artists for his books. He is pretty big on YouTube; I think his book will be pretty big.” That was a bit of an understatement. At that time, I didn’t know who Eric was. I don’t really watch YouTube videos. This is going to sound nerdy, but I like to watch the Disney Food Blog. I love Walt Disney. I don’t like woke Disney. But Walter is one of my personal heroes. I loved being creative. And I see that that was exactly what Disney used to be. Growing up in Southern California, I would go to Disney once a year! I would be so happy looking at the park itself! The entire park is just art.
BC: Can you talk about your process of bringing the colors to life?
BC: Which character (if you can say) did you enjoy working on the most? Why?
G: I cannot answer! Eric is keeping the names of the characters close to his chest.
BC: Do different kinds of characters necessitate different features? For example, are there certain features you would give to a hero or a villain, but not vice versa?
BC: Do you like to collect? If so, do you have a main focus?
G: I collect art books, like IDW Artist’s Editions. I used to collect comic books, but they aren’t worth reading now!
BC: Do you have anything to share with your fans?
BC: Favorite film?
G: It’s A Wonderful Life.
BC: Would you rather go grocery shopping or do laundry?
G: Grocery Shopping.
BC: Hogwarts house?
BC: The Shire or Narnia?
BC: Favorite composer?
G: Johann Pachelbel.
BC: Lightsaber color?
BC: Go-to destination?
G: Las Vegas.
BC: Vacuum or dusting?
G: Wife does it.
BC: *Laughing* Favorite number?
BC: Nickelback or Linkin Park?
G: Nickelback. They seem to be more skilled.
BC: What is your preferred streaming service?
G: Amazon Prime.
BC: Would you rather clean or run a mile?
G: Run a mile.
BC: Frank Sinatra or Perry Como?
Twitter: Were there any experiences where you were directed to make changes to your art that [were] motivated by political bias?
Gabe: Yes. In Young Justice, there was a Queen who had a low-cut top. So I rendered it, and I got a note saying that it was way too low and I needed to undo the lighting and the shading. They even had to redraw the panel and pull the collar all the way up! That stuff would go on all the time; flatten the butt cheeks, flatten the chest. It was always anti… it was very bigoted towards heterosexual men. I would get notes from DC all the time.
T: How’s work life working with one of the big 2 (DC) vs. humble comic merchant Eric?
G: It’s more than I could have ever dreamed of! The fans watching have given me my life back as an artist through all this support! That little boy in the Mexican restaurant; I’m him again, but with the skill, and I get paid very well to do it now. I don’t have to battle woke, and I don’t have to censor myself. I work way less and make more money. DC and Marvel were so dysfunctional with their due dates. It was very stressful. I don’t have to take my work with me on vacation anymore. Everything would always be late because the editors couldn’t decide on a date, and you would work 10-12 hours without a day off! I never got a raise. I worked eleven years and never got a penny!
T: What superpower would you have and why?
G: I think flight.