He started in comics at eighteen and twenty years later continues his dream
By Brent E. Beltrán
There is a tremendous amount of homegrown San Diego talent that contributes in various ways to making popular culture and Comic-Con what it is. Going into Comic-Con I wanted to profile one such individual.
The person that came to mind is someone who has become part of my extended family, Anthony Washington. Tony is the son of Michael and Anita Washington. They are family friends that I know through my primo Matt Moncayo and tios Guy and Maggie Espinoza. If there is a family function going on at my tios’ home the Washington’s are usually there with Michael hanging outside smoking fine cigars and drinking finer tequila.
Tony was born in Detroit, Michigan but didn’t live there long. With his dad in the navy he moved around the country a lot and eventually settled into Imperial Beach. Though not born here Tony still considers himself a native San Diegan. He’s a graduate of Serra High and has lived in various communities in San Diego including IB, Kearny Mesa, Tierrasanta and currently in Golden Hill.
At 38 years old Anthony Washington gets to do what he loves: draw.
On Preview Night at Comic-Con I interviewed him about his background, his influences, how he got started, what projects he’s worked on, what he’s got coming up and what advice he’d give to wannabe comic book artists looking to get into the business. This interview has been lightly edited.
Were you the kid that always had a sketch pad?
Yes. I definitely was. From all the travelling my family would do the one thing I would go back to was drawing. When we’d drive across country I’d have my sketchbook always doing drawings, using the inspirations of all the cartoons I loved like He-Man, Transformers, GI Joe, Silverhawks and all that stuff. I’d do my own versions of those characters. I just grew into loving it. I wanted to do comic books at a young age. Thankfully, I lucked out and at 18 I got hired here at Comic-Con.
You brought your portfolio?
Starting at 15 I went to all the different vendors, showed my portfolio and tried to get some work. I got denied at 15, 16, 17. But at 18 I lucked out. I worked at a comic book store at the time. I was at Cal Arts at school, I gambled and came down to Comic-Con for the weekend. I didn’t want to stay in school I wanted to do comics. I came down and got hired by Image Comics.
That’s right when Image was blowing up?
Absolutely. It was definitely an amazing time to be part of the studio. It was an honor to be a part of so many great artists at that company.
What was the first book you worked on?
First book was Wetworks. It was a spin-off series.
How did it feel when you finally turned it in and saw it in print?
The nerves were there. I didn’t know how it was going to look. I didn’t know how it was going to print. My name is going to be on that. I wanted to do a great job and it worked out. I’m here twenty years later still doing it, thankfully.
You mentioned a lot of cartoons, what other art influences did you have?
There’re so many great artists that I grew up loving and still love. A huge inspiration for me is Jim Lee from X-Men and WildC.A.T.s and Todd MacFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, there’re so many amazing artists, Travis Charest, these two guys (pointing to his Comic-Con Artist Alley tablemates) Jonboy Meyers and Sanford Greene. I love working with all these guys. Being around that I learned a lot. It’s always important to keep learning. Never get stuck in a style. Always explore and try other ideas. All those guys taught me that. I never forget that.
It’s especially important seeing people of color and minorities working in the industry. Twenty years or so ago there wasn’t really that many involved. You saw a lot of Asians working on manga and anime but you didn’t see that across the entire comic book spectrum. As an African American creator and artist how does it feel to be working in this industry?
It’s an honor to even be in the industry. Being of color it does feel good to represent things in a positive way. There are only a few African American artists. It’s a small community. To be amongst those in that community does mean a lot. I know how hard everyone wants to be in the industry. Regardless of the color of your skin to be represented in that group definitely means a lot.
You started with comics and then got into animation. What was that process like and how did you get started?
While I was working at Image I had another job at Midway Home Entertainment. They do Mortal Kombat. I was working over there at the game testing facility doing Cruising USA. While I was working on that there was a director named Kevin Munroe. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to work with him on a Ninja Turtle film back in 2004 or 2005. He gave me a call and had me do a test color script and mock painting. I got the job and was on Ninja Turtles for two years.
Was that your first animation gig?
Yeah. That was the first one I ever did.
How was it different?
It’s spread out over a long span of time. Comic books are a lot quicker on the production end. We normally don’t get two years to produce that kind of entertainment. We normally get thirty days, maybe less, sometimes a little bit more. To be on something for two years is such a long period of time. It was a lot of fun to learn. I was working on scenes for twenty, thirty, forty hours. Normally there wouldn’t be that kind of time for comics. When I got the time to dig into animation like that it was a huge rewarding opportunity that was given to me from him.
Which pays better, that Hollywood money?
(Laughs) They’re both pretty good. (More laughter)
What are you working on now? What exciting stuff you got happening?
Currently I’m releasing a creator owned comic called Dark Prophet. It’s written by Evette Vargas, lettered by Nate Pride, and I do all the art. It’s the first comic that I’ve done all the art on. And that’s every book I’ve worked on over the past twenty years. It’s the first time I’ve put everything into one project. That’s launching here at Comic-Con this weekend. Also launching a project with DJ Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys. We’re going to be releasing our project and hopefully people will like that as well. Outside of that doing some freelance, just finished work on the Ratchet and Clank movie. That’ll be out sometime in 2015. I can’t say a couple projects I’m working on. There’s other stuff happening right now but that won’t be out until later.
What would you say to a young artist that wants to get into the business? What would you tell them to do?
Absolutely never give up if that is what you want to do for the rest of your life. This is not a job this is a passion. It’s something you love doing. If that is something any aspiring artist wants to do I would say never give up. All the hard work will pay off.
Tony Washington is living his dream as a working artist. At a young age he knew what he wanted to do and went for it. His gratitude towards his artistic mentors shows in how he approaches his work and how he interacts with fans. I’m proud to have him as part of my extended family and look forward to seeing more of his artwork in the future. For more info on Tony Washington you can visit his website.