When asked inker Bob Almond had this to say about Armando, "I always thought he looked best over Michael Golden like in Avengers Annual 10 and The Nam, but I recall some impressive work over others as well like how much he enhanced Ron Wilson's work on the Superboxers GN.....and while he didn't do many long runs at Marvel, some issues stick out even to this day like his efforts inking Ron Frenz on a good run on Kazar, a shorter run with Pat Broderick on Micronauts, and an issue over Gene Day on Master of Kung-Fu. He wasn't a good fit on everyone and he had a strong style that could overwhelm a penciler...but that's the case with many inkers so he was no exception there. We definitely would have been better off to see more of his work over the years."
Norm Breyfogle also chipped in with a few thoughts. "Like a cross between Bernie Wrightson and Michael Golden but with a flair all his own," Norm says, "Gil's work is tremendous! His animals and monsters are breath-taking, as is everything else he draws."
"He's one mysterious Dominican." With those words of wisdom Dave Simons introduced me to the world of Armando Gil. Hailing from Santa Domingo, Armando Gil is a name known to virtually every collector of original comic book and any fans of comic books in general. He forged a career at Marvel with oen of the most distinctive inking styles seen - at times his art looked like molten steel, fluid yet firm and strong enough to hold up against anyones.
"I went to the High School of Art & Design in midtown Manhattan," remembers Armando, "not the same building or location but the same institution that Neal Adams, John Romita, Ron Wilson, Joe Rubenstein, Joe Jusko and Dennis Cowan attended. Quite a lot of comic book artists went to Art & Design. Joe Rubenstein was a grade up from me and once and a while I would hang out with him at Neal Adam's studio. Dennis Cowan also would come up there with me. Marvel Comics at the time was I think located on 57th street and Park avenue it was just a few blocks away. My friends David Yee and Randy and I used to walk past there on my way home from school. Atlas Comics were around there to at the time."
"I started in tenth grade submitting samples to Marvel comics every week. I'd take in a stack of drawings that I would stay up late at night to complete. Marvel comic's artist Ron Wilson took an interest in my work and took me under his wing. I would go to school then after school to Marvel and Ron would teach me comics. Stan Lee was still the publisher at Marvel and I would see him walking around up there. Boy he's a fast walker. One time I followed him just to see what he was like, and he just looked like he was a hurry to get somewhere. There was a big storage room in the back of Marvel's office that a few artist made into a studio, so when Marvel closed for the day, Rich Buckler, Ed Hannigan, Ron Wilson and myself would be up there drawing away sometimes late into the night. Other artists would come in and out once in awhile like Craig Russell, Howie Chaykin, Keith Pollard and a bunch of others that I probably didn't recognize. We'd stay there until around 10 at night sometimes later. Rich Buckler then took interest in me as an assistant so I would go over to his house and tighten up some of his pencils, some superhero stuff for DC comics he was doing, he would do it really loose and I'd tighten it up and he'd charge the full rate for a finish pencilled pages, I'd get around $25 per page."
"In I used to go and hang out in the West Village around west 4th street Manhattan New York by the Waverly Theatre, and next to it was a comic store owned by Dave Miley a long haired hippy kind of a guy and he had a lot of cool stuff like a big Vaughn Bode art collection and a mess of EC Comics. I had access to Marvel artist pencils and would Xerox them any chance I got, so one day I brought in a bunch of Xeroxes of Frank Robbins Marvel stuff to show Dave Miley, so Dave says, "Could I hold on to them because I have a guy who loves Frank Robbins art." It was Dave Simons. Dave Simons is a big Frank Robbins fan so I got to meet him as a result of that. We both knew artist Ken Landgraf, a Shaboygan Wisconsin migrant to New York trying to make it big in comics. Ken knew people like Jeff Jones, Bernie Wrightson and Mike Kaluta, Frank Brunner, Wally Wood, etc, etc. I had been hanging out with Ken in his apartment studio in the east Village. After that for years Dave Simons, Ken Landgraf and I hung out like a team of artists trying to get into comic books. Ken would pull in the work and we would do the work. Ken would take his cut and give us whatever was left over."
"Professionally I worked for DC first. Ken did do a little bit of work for DC, he did Nightwing and Flamebird. Ken really liked Gil Kane so a lot of his stuff was really heavily constructed so I'd have to take his pencils and tighten them up in a way that it was inkable. For a time that's how I worked but after a while I stopped because I got better at it, so I did several issues of that. I forget the editors name, maybe Jack Harris, and I did some House Of Mystery stuff here and there. One of them was the Numismatist, that's people who like metal, I remember that one and I did a few others. I was still in touch with Ron Wilson and I always preferred a lot of Marvel stuff to the DC stuff although I liked the mystery stories and things like that. I went up to Marvel one day and Al Milgrom was editing the Micronauts. Before I went up there I was down in a comic store and I noticed Michael Golden's Micronauts and I was really crazy about it. I loved the way it was inked but later on I found out that Michael Golden did not like Rubenstein's inks on it at all. In fact to this day I don't think Rubenstein inked all of them, I think a lot of them were inked by a guy named Rick Brandt, but I don't know that for a fact, but Rubenstein's stuff is more bold and thicker and Brandt's is more of a soft line. Anyway I went up to Milgrom's office and he said, "Well, I can get you some work doing backgrounds for Bob Layton," and I said, "Sure, I'll give it a try," but when I came back Bob Layton didn't really want me because Bob likes to rule everything and is very mechanical and my stuff is more organic. Jim Shooter walked into the office and saw some of my samples and said, "Why don't you give him a shot at inking?" Originally I wanted to pencil but I'd take any work so they put me on the book over Pat Brodericks pencils. We were doing really well there but I've always struggled with deadlines, physically and mentally I just get exhausted. I had done about five issues of Micronauts and I was doing it for Louise Jones, who was the editor on it, she was a great gal and really easy to get along with, and I was putting a lot of effort into those issues, doing all these zip-a-tone effects and overlays because I was competing against a really great artist in Michael Golden. I wanted the audience to realise that the book didn't die just because he left it and I wanted to continue some of the Golden look so I could keep some kind of consistency. I thought Howie Chaykins work on Micronauts, even thought he's a great storyteller, veered too much from Golden's work. They took me off the book because they said I was having problems meeting the deadlines which I didn't really agree with. I think I was maybe a week or two late though, but in business I guess that's a lot. I thought, "Wow," but they said, "We have something else for you to ink," and that was the Avengers Annual. In between it was still getting worked on and they said, "You'll get to ink this book". Before I got to ink it I got to do an issue of Master Of Kung-Fu over Gene Day and I used to talk to Gene a lot on the phone, he was a great guy, and I was so sad to hear he died. Then I got to ink the Avengers Annual which was a lot of fun and Rubenstein kept bugging me to ink a page. Michael Golden didn't want him touching his stuff but I gave him one page out of the book to ink."
"I didn't vanish from comics: no-one was giving me work. Before I did Blade Of Demon Slayer I did a Dark Horse series with the Predator. Then again the whole deadline issue came up. I did the whole four issues. Now they gave me Evan Dorkins pencils. I didn't want to let him down; I really wanted to let him shine so I spent a lot of time reworking a lot of what they gave me. I put a real extra effort into making those issues look as best as they could. I did a lot of stuff over at Topps Comics when Jim Salicrup was publisher there. I did Jurassic Park, I did some Zorro stuff, all the movie licensed stuff, Xena, I think I did one or two issues of that.
"I was in Pennsylvania at the time, finishing up some work, and I realised at one point that Topps was going to close down. I couldn't get any work at Marvel. I solicited them but nobody was offering work. At one point I was their hot little new inker and if I wanted to draw something then I'd get a chance to draw something, as long as I kept inking. But they wouldn't give me work. DC wouldn't give me work either. I got one little job out of DC. I did some Golden Age comics for Neal Pozner, all I did was ink that and I couldn't get any more work there. Then I had been talking to Dave because Dave's an old friend of mine, he's like a brother, and I'd been helping him with some storyboard work that he'd been mailing to me from California, so then he told me, "Why don't you come out here and see what you can scare up?" So I moved back to Cleveland and from there I left to California and started to get into the animation industry for around three or four years. The last year I was at Stan Lee Media working with Stan Lee in developing new shows for the internet and was even scheduled to develop a show that I had created and written, which I still have all the model sheets to, and the script, and I think it'd be an incredible success. It could have been pitched to software companies and they'd have definitely wanted Stan Lee's name promoting their software. I still have the stuff, it's still a do-able project and it's still pertinent today. Then Stan Lee filed for bankruptcy, this is cutting a lot of corners in the story, but when they filed bankruptcy because of Peter Paul, he took a bunch of money when they were doing some investigating into insider trading at Stan Lee Media then there was a margin call and there was no money, so he took off with a bunch of money. Everyone was given a few minutes notice to pack their stuff and get out. Suddenly I was out in the middle of California with no work and right before Christmas when no-one is hiring because everything is going into post-production. I called up the people at Stretch Films in New York. I'd done a little bit of work for them. I was a background guy on the Courage The Cowardly Dog series. I had been doing backgrounds for them back in New York and had gotten a call from Jim Salicrup who told one of the production managers, "Hey, why doesn't he come out to California and work for Stan Lee?" I'd have been better off with Stretch Films because they were more steady. So when Stan Lee Media fell apart I called them and they wanted me to come back out there and help John Vilworth develop a couple of shows for Courage The Cowardly Dog. I got the chance to help co-write one of the shows and storyboarded both of them.
"I came to American back in 1963," says Armando. "That was right during the Cuban Missile time. There was a revolution going on there because they'd assassinated President Trujillo the year before. He was quite a dictator. I was recently doing some research on him and found out that for quite a while he was doing what they call 'ethnic cleansing' in the Dominican Republic because I guess the people from Haiti were trying to move in and he was killing them all off. So they didn't like him all that much, the people there, because he was killing a lot of their friends and families, so they killed him and the revolution started so my dad got us out of there before we got killed. There was a lot of shooting in the streets. My grandma stayed behind thank God she made it through that time, but during the revolution she had to put mattresses up at the front of the house so the bullets wouldn't get through. So we ended up in New York."
"I came back to Ohio to see if I could work it all out. Brad Rader, who is a guy I'd met in California, was trying to get into comics so I inked some of his stuff on Catwoman. I only got to ink one issue and I got it on time, but someone up there said, "Oh, I don't want him inking that, I don't like his stuff," and they even got rid of Brad from the book too, so after that I wasn't able to get any work at all, even though I had been soliciting. That's with the big companies, there was one guy I did an issue and half, Mike Teirney, he had something he wanted done. My heart wasn't in it at the time but I still tried to do the best I could with his stuff.
"After a while, with all this drama and all, you're feeling that this is not the kind of field that you could make a steady living in, you begin looking at this like a regular person and you get a regular job. My thing has always been, because there's so many great artists out there, the only way you're going to get any kind of notice or grab the attention of people is to focus on developing more of your imagination rather than your style, that way you introduce people into your own world. That's why a lot of those Conan pin-ups are so freaky, it's like, this is not right. And they're not all drawn that well either, but I allowed myself to be influenced as far as my imagination by a lot of different sources. I love John Martin, he's an English industrial painter. I love Fuseli's work, especially his Nightmare, I love William Blake, I love a bunch of different people.
"There's a lot of people who can do beautiful work other than comic artists. For example, Egon Shiel, he's really incredible and a lot of artists these days are influenced by his line and style and he's not a comic artist, so you find a lot of comic artists being influenced by a lot of Impressionists, people were into fine arts before any comic art was created. Gustav Klimt, all these people are out there, who you can learn from and be inspired by."
From left to right: Dave Simons, Armando Gil, Ken Landgraf
ARMANDO GIL now has his own line of T-Shirts for sale via the World Of Strange Fantastic Apparel web-site. Go and check out the site, there's quite a few of Armando's original ideas and concepts and best of all, you can buy and wear them!