Mahmud Asrar currently illustrates DC Comics’ ‘Supergirl’ and after honing his trade in the 90s in Turkey’s Hacettepe University, Asrar has become one of the industry’s most elegant yet unheralded artists.
“I was encouraged by my family and others. I studied graphic arts for a couple years before studying animation in Turkey’s Anadolu University as it was the closest I could get to an education in comics. I graduated in 2000,” he stated.
Asrar highlighted encouragement from his mother, despite her concerns about the potential struggles in the job market, as pivotal to his career. “As for my artistic influences, there are too many to name. Basically I’m inspired by anything that appeals to me visually. Sometimes that works itself into my style and approach to creating art,” he divulged.
He admitted that it was indeed a gamble opting for this field. “Living in Turkey and drawing comics for a living had always been a distant dream but I always felt it was something within my reach. I’ve had to work other jobs before I established a means to make a living by drawing comics. It took a lot of persistence and determination. I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that it took a lot of hard work,” added the 35 year-old.
On his creative process, the penciller elaborated, “It all starts when I get a script from my writers and editors. I draw each page as rough layouts which I share with my collaborators for approval and confirmation. If I'm inking or marker rendering the pages myself, I move straight to pencils which I finish off with inks and markers. Since I ink my own work, the pencils are rough and loose and then I scan and send the pages off to the colourist.”
He has worked on acclaimed titles such as ‘Nova’, ‘War Machine’ and ‘Adventure Comics’ but has had his most steady run on ‘Supergirl’ in DC’s rebooted new 52 under scribes, Michael Greene and Mike Johnson. On his elation over the book’s rousing reception, he humbly exclaimed, “It's great, especially when you experience the positive feedback firsthand. I feel flattered when somebody tells me they love what we do with our book…even more so, when somebody tells me they buy the book mainly for my art. Needless to say it's fantastic to hear praise from my peers and contemporaries too.”
Asrar initially broke into the business with esteemed writer, Jay Faerber, at Image Comics with ‘Dynamo 5’ before DC and Marvel came knocking. He lauded the Internet for helping him share his talents, as he turned professional in 2007. “It's pretty rare for anyone to dive into this field. There are probably only a handful of us. I doubt I’d be working in the industry today if there was no Internet. I may have had to move to New York so for someone who lives so far away from the core of the industry, the Internet is crucial. It's also beneficial in cutting personal costs too,” he commented.
He further praised the digital era’s influence on his career. “Digital format has its advantages like cutting printing costs and immediate distribution worldwide. These are important factors in today’s world. But there are disadvantages - like not ever having a real physical ownership that we comic lovers treasure so much. In the end I see it as a good thing as long it helps more people to read comics. I also believe that comics will be available in multiple formats just as long as there is a demand.”
On the pressures of bigger titles such as ‘Supergirl’, he expounded, “It was harder the first few times when I thought I should prove myself. With time it eased off. I found I was pressuring myself which didn't help with the deadlines and the work itself. So, I decided I should not doubt my abilities while trying to improve with every page I drew. Nowadays the pressure of deadlines on whatever I work on is usually the same.”
Asrar revealed that fellow artist and Turk, Yildiray Cinar’s, friendship and support was indispensable as he considers him not only a best friend, but an artist who has shared a paralleled journey since they embarked on their careers after their art studies together. Both have been critical in bridging the comic gap from the Eastern Hemisphere to the North American base of comics as Cinar currently works on DC’s ‘Firestorm’.
He concluded with some advice for upstarts– “There are no shortcuts. If you put in hard work, you will see results. Determination is the key. Draw all the time. Always try to improve. Use the Internet to your advantage and share your work with the world. Get in touch with people but remember to be courteous too.”