Interview by Jenkin Au and Alan Ng
Words by Cornelius Suen and Alan Ng
Photography by Jenkin Au
Mike Del Mundo of Markham, Ontario, Canada, has accumulated a wealth of experience as an artist and a designer. From working for Zebra Studios, a large Toronto based design company, to co-founding the clothing retailer IRIS, Mike has been able to live his dream of fulfilling his creative potential through hard work and talent. Now, Mike has professionally embraced another passion of his: comics. As a lifelong comics fan whose love of sci-fi, fantasy, and dark storylines were satiated in the 1990’s comics craze through the works of individuals like Chris Claremont and Jim Lee on Uncanny X-Men and Todd McFarlane on Spawn, Mike is now using his talents for design in conjunction with Marvel Comics to create and grow artistically in a medium that has been an integral part of his childhood and is now a major passion of his adult life.
Mike opens up to justalilhype! about his career as an artist and designer. He informs us about, among other things, his development as an artist, his favourite artists, his favourite super-heroes, and how his love for hip-hop influences and is conveyed through his art. Mike just wants to be able to create art that he loves whether or not the public likes it and his talent is simply bolstered by his incredible dedication and appreciation for his craft.
Tell us more about yourself.
I am thirty years old and I am an illustrator from Markham, Ontario, Canada, which is a suburb of Toronto. I mainly work in design and I am currently working on comics covers for Marvel Comics. I graduated from the George Brown College for design.
How did you first get into art?
I did a lot of finger painting as a kid. My kindergarten teacher saw me do that and felt that I had a future in art. You look back at those paintings as an adult and you don’t think that they are that dope but just because the teacher praised me for doing them I liked them. Anyone can do art. Just put that belief in yourself and you will pursue it. That teacher instilled in me a sense of self-confidence. I just kept drawing and I got better. Unfortunately, I just stopped drawing all of a sudden. I did a lot of breaking for ten years so I stopped drawing completely and thought that I had lost the love for it. Then I needed to do something to make some money so I got back into drawing. I got into comics in the early 1990’s, during the comics craze. My love of comic books is what really got me into art in the first place. Seeing the art in books that feature the X-Men and Spiderman just inspired me.
Who is your favourite comic book character?
My favourite character is Archangel from the X-Men books. My favourite look for the character is the one with the dark blue costume with the magenta coloured retro Tron stripes. I liked that look because it was super dark. I am really into the classic villain colors, like the dark blues, purples, and magentas. Characteristically, Archangel is very dark as well. He is a violent character who has metal wings and beats the shit out of people.
Are you a fan of anti-heroes?
I have always been a fan of dark stories but I also like stories that are just fun and action packed. Marvel caters to both those tastes. I am just a fan of Marvel I guess. I grew up with their comics. DC Comics has dark stories with dark themes but I just fell in love with Marvel. I was into sci-fi stuff as a kid, like Star Wars and Akira. I gravitated to titles like that X-Men that kind of took the things I loved about sci-fi and meshed them with super-heroes.
How did you start illustrating comics covers?
I graduated from college and I needed a job. I decided to go into graphic design at George Brown College. I dabbled in graphic design, animation, and fine arts and then I decided to concentrate on graphic design. I fell in love with design. A lot of my classmates at the time ended up working on comics. There were two dudes in particular who I knew and who eventually worked on comics, Jesse and Adrian Alphona. Adrian studied design as well and is now an illustrator for Marvel as well and is the co-creator of the Runaways comic. In his college days Adrian was already drawing characters and cool art. Seeing his passion and his works at the time brought me back into my love of comics. I started delving into comics and decided to apply my knowledge of design to my work on comics. And here I am today, working in comics.
Tell us about your book Daily Commute.
Before I went into the freelance illustration world I was working full time for Zebra Studios. They do really dope designs for a lot of the things that you see around you in the world. An example of one of the things that we design is the mannequins that you would see in the display windows of the Bay. That’s what I used to work on. I was essentially an illustrator for a visual merchandiser. We worked with big companies like Nike and the Bay. Since I came from the suburbs I had to commute. The only way I could pass the time was to draw. Some people would listen to music, others would read, and I would take out my sketchbook and draw for twenty minutes. I did this everyday for a year between 2009 and 2010. I didn’t plan to compile all the stuff I drew during those commutes into a book but people were asking for it and I didn’t want that stuff to go to waste. I started to kill time and to learn more about anatomy and structure. It was always repeated to me that to be a better artist you have to do a lot of life drawing. I did a few life drawing classes but drawing on the subway is great. You get to draw people, the stuff around you, and learn to view things at different angles depending on whether you are sitting or standing. It’s good for experimentation too. When you are working full time in commercial work you are always conceptualizing how to get things done and analyzing the best way to attack a project. When you are just drawing you have less to think about. You just draw and your creativity flows.
Name one artist that you look up to.
It’s really hard to name just one because there are many guys who are all equally influential to me. In terms of traditional artists I would have to say Norman Rockwell, and Koji Morimoto. In terms of artists in the comics industry, my first inspiration was Jim Lee, and I also like Rob Liefeld, Mark Silvestri, and all those dudes from the 90’s. I also look up to Todd McFarlane, James Jean, Alberto Ramos, Carlos Meglia, Adam Hughes, and Dave Johnson.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
I would probably pick either Pablo Picasso or Vincent Van Gogh. I wouldn’t mesh my art with their style but it would be cool to see me do a composition and to get one of them to paint over them.
Is there a message that you wish to convey through your art?
I don’t know if I convey messages through my art. I just aim to make ill shit. I come from b-boying and my roots are in hip-hop. Graffiti and dance and music really influence what I do. I don’t really have a message in my art but I want my stuff to convey that edgy hip-hop feel.
How does it feel to be an artist hailing from Toronto?
It feels good man. It feels good to do what I do. It takes a lot of work and it’s a grind but in the end I derive an extreme sense of self-satisfaction from doing it and knowing that I am producing my own work and working for myself.
What are your views on the Toronto art scene?
Tell us more about your logo.
The logo is something quick that I had to get done. I stole the coke logo pretty much. I erased the word ‘Coke’ and put my signature over it. I will probably continue changing my logo every two years. I will still use the same signature, the letters ‘DD,’ but I will switch up the design. It’s not something that is permanent. D.D. is my initials for my b-boy name by the way. It stands for Deadly Del Mundo.
You are involved in the hip-hop community in an indirect way through street fashion with clothing company IRIS. You started that with Merv Maranan. Tell us more about your involvement with IRIS back then and your involvement now.
We started it with two other guys and we just wanted to do something cool. Merv and I grew up in the b-boy world together and he was a breaker too. We were rivals before and we ended up hanging out and becoming friends. He always used to talk about doing our own shirt designs. It only happened after we stopped breaking. We had so many ideas and we just wanted to put them all out there. My involvement with IRIS then was that we started it together and I was the designer/illustrator. Merv did a lot of designs also and I contributed conceptualizations and design work on screen-printed shirts. We started printing shirts and I also working heavily in the branding and marketing aspects of the business. Nowadays we have moved into garments. We still do printed tees but we are focusing our attentions on garments and the functionality of clothing. A lot of it is Merv’s baby and he focuses a lot of his attention on that. We spit ideas back and forth for unique garments. That’s how it is now. I just put out ideas. A lot of what IRIS is now is Merv. Merv does a lot of the work and now it’s mostly just me being like, “Hey Merv, what do you think of this?” and Merv going, “No, that’s wack.”
Where do you see your art progressing to in the future?
I want to be able to be self-sustaining. I want to be able to do what I love and make money off of it for the rest of my life. My main goal is to be able to keep creating. If people notice, great, but I just want to keep on creating regardless of whether or not I get the public’s attention.
A lot of artists sometimes venture into animation. Is that something you have thought about?
Definitely. Animation is definitely in my future intentions. Animation is a whole new thing for me. it’s difficult and it’s another part of art that is very technically inclined. I would love to even just do a short story or write a script and get it to an animation studio. I would be very interested in that.
What is HYPE?
HYPE is intense dopeness.