Albert Morales is a Marvel Upper Deck artist and Cartoonist who resides in Phoenix, AZ. With a degree in graphic design, he has worked in this genre for over 13 years, collaborating on HERO INITIATIVE campaigns, contributing artist for Marvel/Upperdeck’s sketch cards series, and Spider-Man: Homecoming movie campaign. He is a regular fixture at Arizona comic conventions (including the new media con ACE Comicon in Glendale, AZ) and special events at comic books shops.
Recently, Albert was featured in Ohio State University’s publication TALES FROM LA VIDA (now available for preorder). Currently working on BIG TIME FUNNIES - a newspaper filled with comic strips. Albert will be headlining the newspaper with SUPER IMPACTO vs THE WORLD.
CallMeNell: Give me a synopsis of your background; how did you become interested in comic art?
AM: I've always been interested in art. I can totally remember drawing Batman and Spider-Man at a young age. I would draw these characters on sheet rock and try and sell them to my dad's workers. If it wasn't that it was drawing all the time in restaurants or alone in my small room. That small room was all I needed back then and to this day it’s really all I need now. To come from that to where I am now is an incredible feeling, but one I always keep close to me to keep me grounded. Know your roots. [hahahahaha]
CMN: When and how did you decide that you would begin selling your art?
AM: Yeah, again it was from an early age. I've always had that entrepreneurship mentality. I can't remember a time I wasn't trying to sell something. I think as an artist you have to have that mentality. You have to know how to sell your work and yourself at some point if you are looking to get into any field.
AM: I can say that growing up, it was always distilled in me to think smarter, so I don't have to work harder. I come from a family of brick layers so for me it was always put into me to break that circle. I would have to say that's where the selling came from, knowing the tools that I have, what I am capable of doing, and always working towards more.
CMN: Have you met any comic creators that you most admire? Any words of wisdom from them?
AM: I have, and to say that I have become friends with some of them is at times a big “WOW!” factor for me. One guy that sticks out is Sam De La Rosa (inker, Marvel Comics). He was the first Marvel artist that saw my work when I was very young. When I say young it was like when I was –I don't know 9-10 years old, so somewhere in there. He was working on Venom when that character first came out.
AM: Come full circle I am now in this great industry and one of the characters I am frequently asked for is Venom, not only that but I myself have now done work for Spider-man projects, so that's something special. I think the most recent advice he gave me when we met up again was sign my name bigger, [hahahaha.] Something I'm still working on, it's getting there, [hahahaha.]
CMN: For me, besides watching Batman cartoons and Superman movies, Marvel was my gateway to actually reading comics. What was your approach to creating for Marvel?
AM: You know, I was one of those guys pounding away at the pavement like others creating their own characters, trying to put something together, wanting to work for the bigger guys. The whole reason I moved to Arizona was that the guys I wanted to work with were here. At that time, Brian Pulido (Lady Death) and Chaos comics were here. Todd McFarlane (Spawn) had just moved here. There were some cartoon studios still around here at that time as well. Fast forward a couple of years and I started seeing some of the guys start doing these trading cards. I stopped and remembered all the cards that I used to collect as a kid. Mainly Marvel Universe cards. My first Marvel set I worked on was Fantastic Four Archives. I was invited by Mike Malve, owner of the famed Atomic Comics. There I had met with some of the guys in the industry I know now.
AM: After that it was a bit quiet so I sent in a set of example cards after "acquiring" a contact at Rittenhouse Archives. I may have mentioned, these were the examples that they had requested [hahahaha], but I landed a set of cards and I was off and running. After that, I built a portfolio of trading cards to work mainly with Upper Deck now since roughly 2012. I've had a great relationship with Upper Deck and was ecstatic when Marvel got the rights back to Spider-Man and I got the call to work on it for Upper Deck. It was a double whammy when asked if I'd be interested to go back to doing Spider-man for the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie.
AM: Fun Fact: I was actually in my hometown (Corpus Christi, Tx.) when I had completed working on the project and was promoting it when Spider-man: Homecoming came out in theatres so that title was just the cherry on the cake for me – to be home and working on Spider-man.
CMN: How did working with Ohio State University come about?
AM: The Ohio State University thing came as big surprise even to me. I had received a Facebook message at 3 AM (because of the time difference) from a Professor Frederick Luis Aldama. He had expressed he had enjoyed my strip SUPER IMPACTO VS. THE WORLD, and was inviting me to contribute with a project the University was putting together along with other Latino artists. From there, 2016 going into 2017 was all about steamrolling towards Ohio State University, and the publication which comes out in the Summer of 2018 called: TALES FROM LA VIDA, and rejoining some new friends from my experience at SOL-CON: A Black and Brown Expo.
AM: I would have to say that whole show and the invitation from that point really steered me into one of the biggest things in my career so far and that is The Billy Ireland Cartoon Art Museum. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics going as far back as the 1900s, including original art, books, magazines, journals, comic books, archival materials, and newspaper comic strip pages and clippings. Imagine... yur work collected next to Little Nemo, Pogo, Bone, Family Circus (who i was fortunate enough to know and interact with Bil Keane), PEANUTS, and CALVIN AND HOBBES. To have SUPER IMPACTO VS. THE WORLD join that collection is something that to me is mind blowing.
CMN: Tell us about BIG TIME FUNNIES.
AM: BIG TIME FUNNIES. It's a beast, [hahaha]. No, it's a lot of fun. Something that started out of a previous newspaper that closed their doors and we basically picked the ball up and ran with it. I say "we", because while I may be the publisher, editor, and cartoonist on the paper - it is comprised of several different artists all with impeccable skills and talents. The point of the paper was to bring some of that Sunday morning funnies feel back to the masses. While the newspaper industry may be growing smaller, no one told us about it. [Hahahaha.] I can honestly say I don't think I know anyone that didn't enjoy the funnies. BIG TIME FUNNIES was built to give that fun back to the masses as well as bring a new audience in that does not necessarily walk into comic shops. It's a proactive way of gathering a new audience rather than staying in one place hoping for people to come to you. It had such an overwhelming response with the audience and creators, that we will be continuing in print form in 2018 and hopefully beyond that.
CMN: What type of artists would you like to help with comic strips in BIG TIME FUNNIES?
AM: You know one thing I didn't want to do when continuing the paper was to concentrate on just a local level of artist. I wanted something Bigger, hence the title. I wanted the idea to be BIGGER. BIG TIME FUNNIES has worked with artists internationally as well as on a national level. We have also worked with Andrews-McMeel Syndicate (formerly known as Universal Press Syndicate), as well as King Features. We are looking to broaden those horizons this year and build upon those bridges as well as bring on newer artists. I can say there isn't just one factor that I look at when I am reviewing artists and their work. Some of the things I DO is look at the quality of the strip, the jokes/story, can readers read and enjoy the strip and make it relatable to their everyday life.
AM: Another thing that I find I look at more often than not, is the title. Does it flow, is it memorable. Sometimes that may not always fit as well. Take myself for example, SUPER IMPACTO VS.THE WORLD- - it’s a bit long and may not fit with everyone, BUT who doesn't feel like they are against the world or the world isn't against them at times. It's relatable; it's not to say that I'm not critical of it at times, but I think I've had it for a while now that I can't change it even if I wanted.
AM: Another good example of that is Charles Schultz's Peanuts, he never liked the name of the strip preferring Lil' Folks. To this day everyone knows Peanuts. Would Lil' Folks have had the same effect?, who knows. So to answer your question directly, I would say I would look at artists that want to do more with their strips, and take them as far as they can go with them. If we get there together that's great, but the paper is one avenue. A strong one if I wanted to be biased, but ...the question I would pose to them is ....what else can we do that's BIG TIME.
CMN: Let everybody know how they can contact you for BIG TIME FUNNIES entries and the process of consideration
AM: I'd like to think I make myself pretty accessible. If someone would like to submit their strip they can email me email@example.com. They can even feel free to present it to me at conventions I'm attending.
CMN: Thank you Albert! This is going to be a great year for you and you better believe I will be promoting the snot out of BIG TIME and everything you are doing!
AM: Thank You so much! I'm really looking forward to the year. We have a lot of high profile projects coming out as well as some personal projects, so stay tuned!