Allow me to make a prediction that I very much hope comes true sooner rather than later: Paolo Rivera is going to be a huge star in the comic book industry. And you know what? He totally deserves it.
I first saw Paolo's art on the fully-painted Mythos books written by Paul Jenkins and I was pretty impressed. His painting style is very much unlike what I'm used to seeing in comics with the smooth, brightly colored work of guys like Alex Ross or Greg Horn. Paolo's painting more closely resembles water color work, with a slightly more scratchy, gritty quality and more muted colors; his work is still very realistic, but he stylizes it in such a way that it feels to me much more like I'm amidst the action as opposed to just looking at a gorgeous picture (this is of course no slight to Alex Ross, et al, I'm just trying to describe what I feel sets Paolo apart).
I actually encountered Paolo in person for the first time at the one and only Wizard World Boston convention back in 2005.
I was coming up on a year at Wizard and had just been promoted from research assistant to staff writer. I wasn't actually scheduled to work the Boston show, but since my parents' house is about 15 minutes away from where it was held, I made the trip and had a blast. Besides taking the Wizard crew to FiRE + iCE where Rickey ate to the point of near explosion, Mel Caylo befriended the chefs and somehow ended up behind the grill, and Jesse Thompson became convinced after consuming shark that he had taken on the animal's qualities, I also got to take my parents to their first comic book convention.
Having met Paolo the day before, I noted that his work reminded me very loosely of the water color painting my mother does, so the next day I brought her around to his table and he was gracious enough to let us watch while he did a commission piece. You can always pick Paolo out of an Artist Alley lineup because he has an extremely elaborate set-up that includes a mini easel and other tools that allow him to create full-on painted pieces as opposed to just sketches; the speed with which he cranks out high quality work is incredible. My mom got to see a lot of artists do their thing that day, and was wowed by all of them, but Paolo definitely left an impression.
I made sure Paolo's table was always a destination for me at any convention where he was listed as attending. I would frequently do video interviews with him for Wizard because I found his process unique and visually captivating, but also because he's just a nice, humble dude who is a pleasure to talk to. I always harbored a secret hope that someday I could arrange for him to do a Wizard cover, something I know he's always wanted to do, but it never panned out. I did manage to get a fantastic Nova painting from him that I really need to scan and share with you all.
Over the last couple years since Mythos wrapped, Paolo dropped off my radar a bit as I started going to less shows and didn't see his name in any solicits.
Then, last fall, Amazing Spider-Man #577 dropped and so did my jaw.
I had heard through the grapevine that Paolo was going to be doing some straight pencil and ink work and was curious to see it, but I was not prepared for how (excuse the pun) amazing it would be. If you were to mix the artistic DNA of Steve Ditko and Paul Pope then throw in some Golden Age sensibility and include some x-factors of whimsy and dynamic design sense, you'd get Paolo Rivera. He's seriously that good. His Punisher is one of my favorite takes on that character ever. I remember passing the issue to Rickey noting he was in for something special (a claim I make a lot) and he came back the next day just as blown away as me.
Paolo is a fantastic painter and I hope he doesn't give that up completely, but working in the more "traditional"sense, he's really something special and unique. He showed it again in Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! #2 in another fantastic story written by his prior collaborator, Zeb Wells, teaming Spidey with Wolverine. If I thought Paolo was born to draw Spidey, I had no clue how perfectly he could capture Wolverine.
However, the comic that prompted this post was last week's Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special. Paolo took a great story by Roger Stern and elevated both it and himself to the next level in my book. He weaved seemlessly between Golden Age and modern era making everything look so pretty, so (I'm sorry I keep using this word) dynamic and just so everything a good comic book should be. His Captain America (and Bucky and the Human Torch and Toro) also made me realize he wasn't born to draw Spider-Man or the Punisher or Wolverine--he was simply born to draw comics.
I don't think it's going to be long now before Paolo Rivera is one of the most sought-after artists in comics, mentioned in the same breath as some of the true titans, and I can say I knew him when. Way to go, Paolo.
And seriously, check out the first link in this article to his web site where there is so much awesome art your eyes will bleed rainbows. F'real. Also, check out his
I leave you with this: