I got a chance to sit down and talk to Sanford Greene, the artist behind the current run of Power Man and Iron Fist at Marvel being written by David Walker. We talked about everything from DragonCon to the Marvel Variant cover controversy to Luke Cage, to his new animation studio. Sanford was definitely one of the most fun interviews I’ve done yet!
TBG: You’re currently the artist on Power Man Iron Fist with writer David Walker, what’s that experience been like? It’s crazy popular.
SG: I think so, I think some people like it, some people like it.
TBG: The numbers are pretty good.
SG: Yeah, my mortgage is getting paid every month so that’s good. I’m happy about that.
TBG: Tell us about how you came up with the look of Power Man and Iron Fist, because I mean, I like your take on the book but I don’t want to give away too much to people who haven’t read it.
SG: Believe it or not I was flipping through GQ magazine, and I said “Hm, there’s a Luke Cage show coming out. I hadn’t seen anything yet” – well except Jessica Jones, and once I saw that, that kind of you know dawned on me that Luke, he’s a married man now, got a kid, so totally different from what he was back in the day, and the same thing with Danny. And he’s not married and he doesn’t have a kid, so they’re two polar opposites now.
And I thought it would be interesting to play upon where they are now, and use that as kind of their staple for their look. You know, Luke Cage married, kid, has a reserved look. Then you have Danny, who is you know, a true Bro. He’s single, diving in the deep side of the pool, that kind of guy, energetic guy. And I thought it would be kind of interesting to play up on their looks based on their personalities. And that’s where it all came from.
TBG: What was your goal when you took on the artwork for this revamp? Did you go and read all the old Power Man and Iron Fist comics?
SG: I read the older stuff, because that’s what I grew up on, I’m a huge fan of that. And yeah, definitely wanted to play up on some of the old school stuff, because I think there’s a certain charm there.
You know there were some things that weren’t as flattering for now, but there was still an overall charm to their stories, and I wanted to bring that back, me and David. We wanted to bring that back, at the same time retaining some new energy and kind of a new flair, so that we can bring this new audience along as well.
TBG: Now a lot of people don’t realize that you also work on animation, so tell us a little bit about what you animate, like are you animating as Sanford Greene or what did you – what have you done recently?
SG: Well let’s see if I can shorten a long story. A few years ago I wanted to do an animated short with Craig Owen titled 1000. And I decided to do a kickstarter. Part of the reason why I wanted to do the kick starter, was that I thought it was just a genius way to do things, I love crowd funding projects, especially the ones that you can really see people getting behind, and excited to go that route. The thing that was really interesting about that was I didn’t know what I was doing – because I liked the idea, I just didn’t have the right personnel around me at the time – and I was kind of putting it together as I went along with the kickstarter. Which is not good, you need to have a lot of things in place before you go and do it. Needless to say, somehow I pulled off enough of the project to where there were a lot of people that saw it and – had a lot of the eyeballs that saw it and were really excited. We just didn’t make the goal.But what happened was; there was a company that saw what we were doing and they thought that we were fully established, and they reached out to us and said; “Hey we have this project called Army of Frogs that we’re doing as a children’s book, and we want to create an animated trailer to promote the books.”
TBG: So what’s the name of your company now that you’re an animating out of?
SG: My studio is called Secret Sauce – we did the Army of Frogs trailer to promote the children’s the books and some other merchandise. We’re doing some stuff with Under Armor that we’re pretty excited about too.
TBG: Wow! And that’s now on Netflix right?
SG: Yes. Army of Frogs is a children’s book series and also a Netflix series that just got released. But we didn’t have anything to do with the actual Netflix series, except for my designing the look of the show.
TBG: You also did the trailer for the game Battleborn right?
SG: Yes. Army of Frogs was so successful that, another animator studio reached out and asked for out help on an animated trailer for Battleborn, by Gearbox Software. I call it the other Overwatch game. Because Overwatch came out and it was like; okay Battleborn, later for you. But the one great thing that we got from that was the tremendous feedback from the viewing audience and a lot of people were really impressed with it. From there our resources increased, and while we still had momentum, we decided to immediately go into working on a new 1000, which again is full circle.
TBG: Wait. That’s the first project you were just saying you kickstarted right?
SG: Yeah. This is the one that I was trying to do on kickstarter, and now we had an opportunity to do the animated trailer. So the goal is to have it out by the end of the year. A nice little Christmas gift for everyone.
TBG: Now are you trying to make a series out of it?
SG: Well right now we’re going to put the trailer out and see what happens. Now we’ve got some people that are interested – I don’t want to put too much out there – but there’re some people with some serious backing I should say.
TBG: There you go! And you don’t have to go back to kickstarter!
SG: That’s what it looks like, if it moves in the direction that we’re thinking, we may not need to kickstart anything.
TBG: What’s next for you? You’ve always got irons in the fire.
SG: Yeah I’ve got to keep the irons hot. I’m like schizophrenic a little – they’re a lot of things that I am interested in, and I just want to know about as much as I can – as much as possible, because they’re a lot of good things out there.
And I would love to be a part of all kinds of things in this crazy pop culture. But in terms of the comics side of things, Power Man and Iron Fist, that’s the mainstay and I’m doing covers for Black Panther, doing some covers actually – and I also just did a really cool cover for Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
TBG: That’s great!
SG: It’s the little girl version of you by the way. She’s got a little bun, yeah we got the glasses, got to get you purple rims so that you could match. It’s really cool, she’s the smartest person in the Marvel universe now.
TBG: I know! I heard about that. Are there artists out there that you’re like “yo that’s some really interesting stuff there”.
SG: Yeah, well in terms of comic, I’m very excited about Chris Visions. I don’t know if you know – he did a few covers for Power Man and Iron Fist that I’m very excited about. He’s definitely an up-and-coming guy. It’s funny, I say up-and-coming, but I’ve seen him for a few years now that he’s been really making some serious waves in the industry right now. So definitely excited about that, just seeing where his career is heading right now. And of course Ta-Nehisi Coates writing Black Panther and Brian Stelfreeze as the illustrator, who I consider to be a mentor to me, which is really cool.
TBG: Why do you say that? Why is he a mentor?
SG: He was one of the guys when I was trying to break into the industry – he tore me a new one to be honest with you. And then you know he’s a man of colour – so I was like “wow, here’s a guy that is not only in the industry and he’s African-American, but he’s revered”. That was kind of the lynchpin for me because it was like; “wait a minute, he’s not just a black artist, he’s the artist, who happens to be black”. And that really stuck out to me. So I’ve been getting advice from him for – I don’t know – for the last ten years now or so, yeah
TBG: This is kind of a loaded question, but – what do you think about all the concern that there’s not enough black folks working in mainstream comics… You’re on the inside. What do you think?
SG: Yeah I’m in the house now!
TBG: You’re in the house.
SG: I was in the field but now…
TBG: LOL! …what is it like from the inside looking out, knowing how the system works, when you’re hearing bloggers like myself or anybody else talk about diversity, or lack of diversity or in terms of characters as well as the projects? I mean you’ve done things besides Power Man and Iron Fist. Even though it might look like you’re only doing black characters, but you do more than black characters.
SG: Man that is a loaded question. The diversity in comics is one that I feel like we have a lot of great things that we have to support. Blogging about it, tweeting, definitely whatever social media that you could put out there. It just has to be shouted from the rooftops about these properties.
I’m grateful for what you guys are doing, for what you’re doing, but it needs to be more of that. I think there are a few unfortunately that have kind of their little gripes about certain things, but like celebrate the fact that it’s actually being done. And if you celebrate this, then that’s going to open the door for more things. You shut something down just because it’s not black enough – I’m sorry – then that’s going to come across that to other people that may not even be fully understanding of what that means; “Oh it’s no good so I’m not even going to support it”. You know it’s like you’ve got to be careful because the words that you say can go all kinds of ways. It can be misconstrued, so I mean it’s not too many, but all it takes is one bad apple, right?”
That’s what happened with the Variant cover, the hip-hop covers, for a while. Then it dissipated pretty quick, because you started hearing more of the great things, and it was coming from the people that really had merit. You got people that are the actual artists, when Naz and Ice Cube and Run DMC, and the list goes on and on, they say we love this, this is awesome, this is what Marvel – Marvel’s doing something that’s unprecedented, or something that should be celebrated – you can’t argue against that. Your thing doesn’t have much legs to stand on because there’s someone with a lot more credibility saying “support this”. So we just need more people, but then we also need those that have a voice – a bigger voice I should say, really championing what’s out there, and again it’s a small few, but sometimes that small few – it only takes a spark, right? So I guess that’s my take on it, you know just celebrate it.
Celebrate it and more will come.
Obama was the president for eight years, eight years, and that’s it, you just celebrate that, take what he did in that eight years and realize it’s a lot. Let’s not be a bunch of ‘glass half empty’ people, that’s what we are a lot of times, we can be that way. We’ve got to be a lot more different in our thinking. The thinking is the beginning of everything, good or bad. Alright, off the soap box.
TBG: Thank you so much. The only other thing I was going to ask you was what was your favourite comic book character growing up?
SG: Power Man and Iron Fist!
Sanford Greene is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the Creative head of Secret Sauce Animation Studio and has worked professionally for more than a decade in the comics and animation industries. Clients have included companies such Marvel Entertainment, Disney, DC Entertainment, Warner Brothers, Hasbro and more. You can catch Sanford next at New York Comic Con 10/6-10/9 at booth O-9.
Where to find Sanford Greene: