Comic & Marvel concept artist Andy Park talks to Screen Rant about Tomb Raider, his illustrious career, and why Black Widow reminds him of Lara Croft.
By Victoria Phillips Kennedy
Published 2 days ago
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Tomb Raider?franchise. As part of the festivities, the teams at Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics are commemorating each game within the Tomb Raider series with a month-long celebration dedicated exclusively to it. This month, it is?Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation’s?turn to take center stage.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was Lara Croft¨s fourth outing. Taking place in Cambodia and Egypt, players had the chance to dig deeper than ever before into the mystical and fantastical world of archaeology. After Lara removes the Amulet of Horus from a sarcophagus, she unwittingly unleashes the ancient God Set, who seeks to wreak havoc upon the earth. Lara must stop Set, as well as her former mentor Werner Von Croy, and once more save the world.
Related: Will Tomb Raider Get A New Game On PS5 & Xbox Series X
As part of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation¨s month of celebrations, renowned comic and concept artist Andy Park?has reimagined the Tomb Raider IV box art. Andy now works at Marvel Studios as the Director of Visual Development, but at the very start of his remarkable career he was the artist for Tomb Raider¨s comic book series. Screen Rant had the pleasure of talking to Andy about his beautiful?The Last Revelation?artwork, what Lara Croft means to him, and why Black Widow always makes him think of Tomb Raider’s leading lady.
Hi there Andy, so first of all – your CV is incredible! I cannot believe the amount of amazing work that you have done. You have got the Tomb Raider comics, you have got Marvel, you’ve got God of War. How do you feel being part of bringing such incredibly strong females and characters to life? How do you feel about the influence that you have on the culture?
It has been interesting because this is my 26th year working as a professional artist, starting off as you mentioned, on comic books for the first 10 years. And then, after that, five years on God of War, and then for the past 11 years, I have been with Marvel Studios on the film side. But interestingly enough, through the years, something that has stayed with me, not by plan, was I got to work on so many female characters, whether it is in storytelling and comic books or designing the female characters in the MCU. And again, none of that is by design. It just somehow fell on my plate. Which is funny because growing up as a youth and adolescent, in my sketchbook that I would always draw in, I never drew girls really. It was mainly drawings like Wolverine, you know, all that testosterone that kind of 80s comic books, 90s comic book stuff. And I remember as a teenager, a big reason why I did not was because I felt a little bit like if people saw me draw girls, they were going to think I was a pervert or something. So, it was just not something I practiced. But I got hired at 19 years old by Rob Liefeld and I started doing drawings. And I did a drawing of a female character and he really responded to it, people in the studio really responded to it. And from that point on, I was, given assignments to draw a female character. So, it’s something, I think I just took to and I feel honored because I feel like I’ve been able to draw a lot of icons, like Lara Croft, and to be able to tell her first solo series and really dive into her character with Dan Jurgens, our writer.
I was going to say, you were the first person to bring her to comics.
I think so. Yeah. I mean, I know Michael Turner did a Witchblade/Tomb Raider special. And then I think there was some album that was made somewhere in Europe and maybe in France, but I am not sure. But definitely the US comic book world. Yes. That was the first – I drew her from issues 1 through 20.
That is quite a responsibility – That’s amazing.
Yeah. It was very intimidating.
Did you feel that pressure on you, to get this icon so perfect?
Totally, totally. Because I was at art school at the time. I had one more year to graduate. I had all the intentions to graduate, but then I got the call from Matt Hawkins, offering me the job to draw Tomb Raider. And by that time, you know, everyone knew who Tomb Raider was, who Lara Croft was, the video game. And I knew that there had never been a comic book of her. So, I had to drop out of school to take this opportunity.
But it was not only intimidating because (Tomb Raider) was an icon already, pop culture wise, but I was jumping into Marc Silvestri¨s bull pen of amazing iconic artists like Michael Turner and David Finch, so that was intimidating as well. But, you know, I had to go for it, despite all the fears and intimidations like that, there are certain things where you have to just jump – fail, fail, or flight. You kind of have to do it.
Well, you certainly did not fail. You took the flight path.
Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.
You have recreated the artwork for The Last Revelation as part of Tomb Raider¨s 25th anniversary. I was having a look at your art compared to the artwork from when it was originally released. You have still managed to keep the spirit of the game, but you have obviously brought it up to a more modern audience. How did you go about that? Did you definitely want to keep the essence, but feel you had to be more aware of today’s audience?
I think I just kind of did what was more natural because, ever since the reboot of Lara Croft, in recent years, I have been invited by Crystal Dynamics to do a marketing illustration for each of their games. So those were always more about realism. This was an opportunity to do something classic, right? The classic original Tomb Raider game, and it was a perfect transition for me because that is the version that I drew in comic books. This is pre the reboot. So I was drawing the classic version. So, this was the opportunity to do it in more of my current style, I guess you would say, which is more about realism. Like similar to like what I do at Marvel Studios – If we were to cast her and have an actress play Lara Croft and I’m doing a painting of a key frame; an illustration of a moment from the movie that’s based off of the classic Lara Croft. What would that look like? So that was kind of my thinking, the essence of the classic, bringing it into a reality.
I did notice that she was much more´ in proportion´ shall we say, in your picture.
That is something that I did, or I tried, to do in the comic books. When I first got that assignment, one thing that I wanted to bring was a little bit more of a realism. Still, keeping the allure of her beauty and all that kind of stuff. But knowing that she is also an adventure and action hero and all that kind of stuff, doing, crazy feats of jumping from here and there fighting whatever thing that crosses her path.
I read in one of your interviews that you had given and, when you were talking about The Wasp and Captain Marvel, you said, ＾you know, they’ve got to be practical, they’re fighting aliens.￣ You really want them to actually look like they can take them (the aliens) on and be comfortable.
So much of it is trying to bring a believability, you know, and that is not always called for, it depends on what you’re drawing. Sometimes you don’t need to adhere to that, but definitely what I do in MCU and what I try to do in the Tomb Raider comic, is bring a believability. So that is why I depicted her having more of an athletic physique, rather than just a model. I did try to give her some muscles. I know I have said it in a very old interview, but, all comic book artists, they have a mirror in front of them (at least the old way of doing has a mirror´ these days it might be your webcam and everything). But you use yourself to pose into different poses and also to understand that anatomy of poses. So, you know, ＾oh, this is how the shoulder works.￣ And then this is the curvature of this. So, so many of those drawings of Lara Croft are essentially me.
That is all I’m going to see from now on!
And then I feminize it. The anatomy of a of a male and female are essentially the same structurally, starting from the skeleton. And then obviously, as you know, there are differences. So, it is easy to take a male body, or vice versa, you can take a female body and then turn it into more of a male physique.
Related: Tomb Raider: Who Lara Croft Was Before She Raided Tombs
I have been watching a few of your YouTube videos and really I did not appreciate until I watched your ＾How to draw Loki and Thor￣ videos, how many levels there?are to a final picture. I watched the one where you showed how you could flip almost between Loki and Thor just by making (the figure) slightly broader.
Exactly. Yeah. That is exact same thing. You just liquefy, you move things around, you can change it to a male or female.
I just think that is amazing. I tell you what, I fell down such a rabbit hole with your YouTube videos, they were just amazing and, cards on the table, I cannot draw.
Oh Wow, and you still watched it!
I still watched it! You have a very soothing manner. I ended up just watching and watching – I watched you unbox stuff! It was great.
Oh, thank you. No, I appreciate it. Appreciate it. The closer I go to the mic; it sounds more soothing. (Andy Park gets super close to the mic and makes his voice go very deep)
Ooh I like that. The one that made me laugh though, is when you unwrapped your Hela model and you dropped her head.
Oh my gosh. Yeah, that was, that was not planned. I was like, argh, so scary.
That made it more charming. Back to the pictures, I noticed, that, when comparing your artwork to the original design for The Last Revelation, you have removed the torch and replaced it with Lara¨s second pistol. Was that just an aesthetic choice or did you have a reason for wanting to change out the torch?
That was purely something that I wanted to do because I wanted to depict her as classic as possible. And for me personally, her holding the flashlight with only one gun, visually it was not as appealing. Even though I know that that would match the cover more. Secondly, if you have a flashlight, that light is so strong, it will just completely dictate the composition. And I wanted to control the mood and to not have that be such a strong focal point. But at the end of the day, I just wanted to paint her as classic as possible. And is does not get more classic than, you know, (mimics using Lara¨s dual pistols with his hands) guns or whatever does that. That is the bottom line. Why I asked, and then I begged Megan, like, please let me do it.
Do you get the chance to play many games? Or are you mostly working?
You know what, I have never been a gamer´ the only time I played semi a lot was the old 80s Nintendo or Atari, which is weird, because I worked on Tomb Raider. I am known for that in the comic book world. And then, after that I worked on God of War and, to this day, I am still not a gamer. And a big reason is because every time I play, I do not have the patience. I started getting really frustrated and stressed and angry and I am like, ＾I don’t need that. I have enough stress. I have enough stress in my life. It is not, it is not relaxing for me.￣
Do you find your artwork relaxing?
I think I just have this inherent need to be productive. So, for me, even when I watch like TV and stuff like that, usually I have it on the side while I’m painting or doing something productive. It’s hard for me, it’s hard for me to just sit in front of a screen for hours. I started getting antsy. Like, ＾oh, I’m not being productive.￣
I can relate to that. I get that, definitely. I noticed a few of your videos that you had uploaded on your YouTube channel had a 2020 date stamp – is that something that you did to keep yourself busy and to keep yourself mentally sane? How did you cope with 2020 being so different to what has been?
Years ago, I did start the YouTube channel, but as you can see, even though I started years ago, I still only have like, seven videos. So last year because we were all forced to work from home´ I had more time to be looking at videos or I was looking at more YouTube videos. And so, it was just an opportunity to be like, ＾I should really do some stuff on my YouTube￣. I’ve always wanted to, but I think I just found myself looking at more and more YouTube videos and that kind of motivated me to be like, ＾I should put some videos up.￣ So, I think that was kind of the motivation because I am here in my own studio. I did move into this house fairly recently. So that is why I made up the setup and everything, to be more YouTube friendly.
I love that. It is such a modern thing to look for in a house, isn’t it? A YouTube studio. You have mentioned that, when you draw Lara Croft, you feel like it is drawing an old friend. Does that stem back to the fact that she was your first big gig, or do you find some kind of comfort with Lara?
Yeah, because my first love is comic books. That is what I grew up reading. That was my dream as a child and an adolescent. And then I got hired by Rob Liefeld when I was 19 years old. And then I got to work for Mark Silvestri and worked at Marvel. I worked in comic books for 10 years. So that was my childhood dream. And out of that 10 years, the best experience I had were the years drawing Tomb Raider 1 through 20. To this day, even though I drew X-Men, (that was a bucket list thing), Tomb Raider was the one that meant the most to me. That whole experience was just amazing. I remember when we first announced it at San Diego comic con, and I had to draw this preview book. It was just depicting the first seven pages of the books, only with my pencils. I had to bust that out about a week before San Diego comic con. And then debuting that first poster and then signing, to drawing every issue with my favorite?creative team; with Jon Sibal, my inker and JD Smith, my colorist, Dan Jurgens as writer. And then I got to go on a European tour for debuting the first issues – I got to go to Netherlands, Paris, Brussels, and Germany.
That¨s a pretty awesome first gig!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So that was just a really amazing couple of years that I was on Tomb Raider.
Were you discovered through your art school?
No. Oh, I was discovered when I was going to UCLA and in my sophomore yea I went to San Diego comic con with my portfolio in hand, and I waited in the portfolio review lines. I showed it to the very first portfolio review line. I waited a couple hours, Rob Liefeld was at the front, I showed it to him, and he offered me an internship and I was blown away. I was 18 at the time and I literally went with the intention of just showing him. I don’t know any professional artists. There are no artists in my family. So, I had no idea´ I knew I had some skill, but hearing your mom say you’re awesome only means so much. I needed professional critique just to tell me, should I be pursuing this or is this just a pipe dream? So, I wasn’t going (to comic con) to try to find a job. I had an intention to graduate college, but he offered me an internship. It was crazy. And then after working for Rob Liefeld for a couple years, I took a hiatus from comic books because I wanted to get an actual art education. So, I went to Art Centre College of Design, studying illustration. I did that for a couple of years. Then that is when I had one more year to go when I got the call from Matt Hawkins from Top Cow for Tomb Raider. And I was like, darn it. I dropped out of college twice.
Third time lucky?
I need an honorary from at this point. Somebody needs to give me an honorary degree.
That’s pretty cool. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that people make films about. That’s awesome!
Yeah. I always say I have four years of college experience, at two different colleges, but zero degree.
You work with Marvel now. Do you do any work with their comics or are you strictly based on the film concept designs?
Yeah. For the past 11 years has been strictly Marvel. I am in the visual development department. So, I am leading a lot of their films as well as doing concept designs, but yeah, strictly for them.
I don’t know much about the process of design and concept art – is the process of designing a concept for a real person, different to how you would design a comic book character?
Yeah, definitely. It definitely is because the comic book… usually the designs are simpler, traditionally, because you have to draw it over and over and over again, on every single panel. So that’s why traditionally Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, all those artists that have designed these amazing characters, what do they usually look like? They usually look like essentially a naked man or woman with just lines and colour delineation because they are drawn over and over again. That’s why you don’t see many complicated costumes with all these different wrinkles and all this stuff. So, for my job at Marvel Studios, a lot of times it’s for costumes for real actors, other times it’s a CG costume. Sometimes it is a CG character! So, anything based on a character or if it’s a creature we’re designing those characters. So the human body, and the real actors have different proportions than the comic books, who are like nine heads tall and more idealized. Even though these actors are beautiful, and they’re idealized in the reality sense, they’re still not comic book proportion. So, it’s a real challenge to get these costumes, especially like helmets and stuff to look good. You see a lot of amazing cosplayers out there and it looks great. But when you stand back, you can tell, especially if it is a helmeted character, you’re like, ＾oh, that the head looks huge.￣ Usually, you see that on the Ironman cosplays. You’re like, ＾wow, they did an amazing job￣, but you could tell proportionally the head looks quite big on that body. And the body looked kind of small.
It’s amazing much does go on behind the scenes. The amount of thought and the process that goes into just that one look. And, I assume, you must have to have different costumes for, if they’ve been in battle or if they’ve been weathered or something. I take it there many different stages of the same outfit.
Yeah. Usually, for any character, they have up to like 20 costumes at different iterations of it.
Do you have to do the concept art for each of those?
It depends on if it is specific. If it’s just dirtied up and ripped, usually not. But if it’s a character like Hela, she had like all different forms – from her helmet or non-helmet to what does her hair look like? When she first comes out, it’s more ripped looking and not green yet. So yeah, that one, I spent six months just doing like designs, designs, designs on her. And that’s just in the concept phase.
I’ve never actually watched Thor Ragnarok, but I know who Hela is just because of her huge helmet.
Yeah, exactly. That was one of my favorites?and very challenging, because usually we’re designing things that are a little bit more real, but the director really wanted, like he didn’t´ he wasn’t that interested in reality. So, I was like, ＾how are you going to do these antlers?￣ This is then ＾how’s she going to turn her head?￣
I mean, you are going to have to give that woman a good radius, aren’t you?
Well, that’s why for that one, eventually she’s just wearing a motion capture suit, and then they do it in CG. Because, she can’t act with that with that, with those antlers, no way. She never wore them.
Who do you think is your favorite?character to have worked on comic book or otherwise?
Oh, well this is a Tomb Raider interview, but I will answer in two forms.
(jokingly whispering into the mic) Andy, the answer¨s Lara Croft´
?I know, I know. I already answered that, my comic book persona without a doubt, is Lara Croft. Right. For film´ I will say for film, probably Ant Man, I really loved designing Ant Man.
You’re so diplomatic?- very well played.
And then video games I’ll answer that because I feel like I have three careers. Since I never actually worked on the Lara Croft video game besides marketing illustrations, then of course, I worked on God of War, I would say Poseidon in God of War 3. So, that Poseidon boss in the beginning.
Do you ever think you would go back to doing a video game medium?
Yeah, I would definitely be open to that. I think even though I am not a gamer, I appreciate games and what they’ve been doing. I still keep track of what is going on. It’s so amazing, the stuff that they’re making and, obviously what Crystal Dynamics has been doing with the Lara Croft series, what Sony Santa Monica has been doing with the God of War series. They (Sony) tried to get me back to work on that rebooted God of War series. But by that time, I just finished Avengers and that came out in theatres and became the third, highest grossing movie of all time. So, I was like, I think I’m going to stay here for a little bit longer.
Related:?How Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft Was Inspired By Virtua Fighter
Looking back at your time working on Tomb Raider, what would you say was one of your fondest memories of your time working on the comics?
Oh Gosh. There is so many. I mentioned the San Diego comic con – that first signing was really special, doing the European tour was special. Besides that, I think it was being able to work at that time. I mentioned my inker, Jonathan; At that time, we were all freelancers. So, I wasn’t working in-house at Top Cow. I was working at home because Top Cow is in LA. I was over in Orange County, about an hour and a half away. So, every day all of us comic book artists who are so used to just getting on our headsets, we would just call each other and talk while we’re drawing. Eventually I was like, ＾Hey, you, let’s get a studio. Let’s rent out some space and get a studio!￣ So, me and Jonathan, we found this one office space and then we invited other artists. Eventually Norm Rapmund, he¨s another inker, came in. Jeff Matsuda at one point came in. Different artists would come by. It became our little studio where we would just work together, we were watching TV, we had a ping pong table in there.
We were in our early twenties at that time. And then all our friends from college, they would just come by after school or work, they would just come to our place and hang out. And we’d work into the night, and then say, ＾let’s go for a midnight run to Jack in the Box.￣ And, because (Jonathon) was my inker, I could just draw it and be like ＾here,￣ instead of FedExing it to him. I could just hand it to him and then watch it. And I could watch him ink it and I could be like, ＾no, no change that that’s wrong.￣ That time was special.
Yeah, absolutely. A great little team. That is really, really nice to hear.
We talk about it these days. Still like “, one day in the future, we should do that again and get a studio going.￣ It’s harder now with we all have families and stuff.
Growing up definitely does that. You know, real life is hard work.
Yeah. It’s just the reality.
What is next for Any Park in 2021?
Oh Gosh. Well, what is 2021? What is next? Okay. I led the visual development team at Marvel Studios on, the overdue Black Widow film finally coming out. WandaVision already came out. Shang Chi, which you might’ve seen the trailer for, that one’s coming out this year. I led the team on that one. I’ve already finished, but Thor: Love and Thunder. And I’m currently working on Ant-Man and The Wasp Quantumania. And, The Marvels.
That’s´ Wow´ I can see what you mean, about how you like to be busy.
Yeah. Yeah. And, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume Three.
Would Lara Croft make a good Avenger?
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think so. I mentioned her being similar to Black Widow, or was that the previous interview?
No, not me. Argh, tell me, I need to know. They asked a better question than me.
I mean, because I’ve got to design Black Widow through the years ever since the Avengers. So, every single one from Avengers, Age of Ultron, Civil War, Infinity War, End Game´ And now the Black Widow film. There are similarities to those two characters and their visuals. I mean, they’ve both got the double gun, they’ve got the holster, sometimes Black Widow has got the backpack and then, in recent films, she has more of the tied back hair or some kind of ponytail. So, every time I’ve designed Black Widow, Lara Croft is also on my mind. So, you know, those two, those two can be like, you know´
Black widow and Lara just going for coffee and saving the world together.
Totally, totally. Yep. And then Hulk jumps in.
The whole squad. Why not? I mean, I think Lara needs more friends, so I’m more than happy to have her in the Avengers. We can make this happen, Andy.
I think so. Well, you know, Disney is buying nearly everyone. So maybe eventually´
Next: Tomb Raider 3’s Croft Manor Quad Bike Trail Looks Great In Fan Game
Image Source: Tomb Raider 25, Andy Park Art/YouTube
Mass Effect 3: All Legendary Edition Changes & Differences
About The Author
Victoria Phillips Kennedy
(256 Articles Published)
Victoria is a freelance writer from the UK with a love of good games, bad films and buffet breakfasts. Affectionately known as Lady V, when she tells people she writes about gaming news, they assume she is talking about pheasants and shotguns. She is not.
Victoria lives a life of beautiful chaos with her family, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter via @LadyV_Writes
More From Victoria Phillips Kennedy