For over 25 years The Upper Deck Company has been at the forefront of quality and innovation. We are proud to maintain an award-winning portfolio of gaming and entertainment products that contain some of the industry’s best original works of art. We are excited to share exclusive interviews with some of our top artists bringing a look at the amazing people behind these amazing works. This is the Upper Deck Artist Spotlight Series.
Upper Deck: Hello Kyle, would you like to introduce yourself?
Kyle Baker: I was born in New York, where I still live. I’ve been a cartoonist since I was 18 when I started drawing for comics. I also run Quality Jollity, an animation studio.
UD: What does “being creative” mean to you? How did you create your own style?
KD: Creativity is literally making something out of nothing. Everything starts with an idea. It exists only in the mind. Then we find a way to make the thought a reality. I spend a lot of time imagining, making pictures in my head. If the idea is good enough, I will make it a physical reality, using whatever tools seem most practical.
UD: What made you decide to pursue a career in the art world?
KB: I’ve always enjoyed cartoons since childhood. I remember reading the Sunday papers and watching Walt Disney cartoon in theaters. My parents were artists. I enjoyed making toys, comics, even movies as a child. My family also did lots of art for our church. Making things is easier than hoping to find what you want. If I wanted a King Kong toy, I made it. If I wanted a Superman cape, I made it.
UD: How do you work? Is there a “process” or more of a “flow”?
KB: Many of my jobs involve executing a client’s direction by a set deadline. I write a schedule and figure out what tasks must be done by what time. For the Black Panther image, I submitted about five drawings of poses which were submitted to Marvel for approval. Marvel superheroes have a set style. The costumes, colors, and subject matter follow an established formula, and an artist has to be consistent with the company aesthetic. I work around the clock. I’m lucky to be very busy.
UD: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you?
KB: I enjoy all of the EC artists like and George Evans and Reed Crandall. As a teen, I received great instruction from Dick Giordano, Josef Rubinstein, John Romita Sr, and others. I love talking to Neal Adams. Jack Abel was really helpful when I was an intern. I like everybody. Everyone is so talented I can learn from everyone. My children are great artists.
UD: Who is your favorite Marvel comic book hero or character?
KB: I enjoy The Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby. Ditko’s Spider-Man series was terrific also.
UD: What were/are some of your favorite games to play?
KB: I love KNUCKLENAUTS and MASS MURDERER OF STEEL.
UD: What type of work do you most enjoy doing? (Graphic novel, advertising, comics, gaming, conceptual, etc.)
KB: I love making animated cartoons, though they are a lot of hard work. Comic convention appearances are fun, too.
UD: What’s your favorite piece of personal work you’ve ever created?
KB: I did some cool portraits of my children when they were each a week old.
UD: What is your dream project?
KB: I’d like an animated TV series.
UD: Who would be your dream collaboration with?
KB: Jerry Bruckheimer.
UD: What was your favorite part about working on this product?
KB: It’s great to work on a large format. Books are always small. Great to work for more than a day on a single image, also. For books, I have to do about 30 drawings a day.
UD: What were some of the challenges that you faced?
KB: Well, a large image like this is going to be viewed differently from a smaller comic book image. It should look good at close range as well as from across the room. I wanted to add lots of small details and the challenge is to make sure it doesn’t get too busy when viewed at long range.
UD: Anything else you would like to add?
KB: I had a great time working on this. Everyone at Upper Deck and Disney was easy to work with. I hope that the fans enjoy what we came up with.
You can find our Black Panther Gallery print, King of Wakanda and the variant, T’Challa’s Pursuit, up for pre-order on our website, here. You pick up Black Panther #169 by Ta-Nehisi Coates at your local comic shop now, and you can see Marvel Studio’s Black Panther film in theaters February 16th.
If you’re interested in seeing more art by the award-winning Kyle Baker, you can find him on these websites and social media platforms;