There are few people in the world that can claim success as a comic book artist, and even fewer that are fan favorites, with artwork featured on both DC and Marvel covers. Stanley Lau, alias Artgerm, is one such artist, respected by peers and fans alike. With iconic imagery of strong, powerful females and an extraordinary eye for detail, Stanley Lau is a force in the industry. Between Imaginary Friends Studios (his art studio), a t-shirt design business, and cranking out jaw-dropping variants for “The Big Two", Mr. Lau is an incredibly busy man. Luckily, Comic Burst's Nathan Liberty was given a rare and exciting opportunity to speak with the one and only Artgerm.
Prefer video interviews? Check out the Artgerm video interview below.
(this article has been edited for content and length)
CB: Hey everyone! This is Nate with Comicburst.com and today we are here with a very special guest. Stanley Lau, also known as “Artgerm". How are you today Stanley?
Artgerm: (Waving) Hi! I'm great! Thank you for the invitation.
CB: Thank you for joining us. You are a founder of your own studio, have an advertising company, and a t-shirt label; you are an incredibly busy man! What drives you to continue pushing with such a demanding schedule?
AG: Well, it really is a roller coaster ride I must say. Upon graduating from design school, I was employed with an advertising agency and after a few months I felt that it wasn't something I wanted, so I decided I wanted to run my own show. I founded an advertising studio with a bunch of partners and we ran it for about 4 or 5 years.I found it was very boring: coming up with branding ideas, advertising campaigns… there was nothing that allowed me to draw! So I decided to recreate myself and gather a bunch of my friends to set up Imaginary Friends Studios, which we have been running that for the past 10 years.
CB: You've been an illustrator, designer, and co-founder of Imaginary Friends Studios. Out of all the many projects you have been involved with, what would you say was the most challenging? The most rewarding?
Artgerm: Well, you need to understand that artist like us aren't exactly business-minded people. So, we can look at colors, look at images, design, and create; but numbers and business plans? Those are the real challenges for me. Sometimes we make mistakes, which then impair you in many ways, especially financially. So, I'll say that back when we first started Imaginary Friends Studios there weren’t any studios like us in Asia/Singapore. So, we tried different things out to see how they would go. It was kind of naive mentality. We thought as this great team of artists, we could get together and do something great.
But, we did not know where to start. So we rented a studio and furnished the entire studio with our personal computers, toys, and comics. Everything!!! Everything accept projects that is! We had everything in place except projects and we realized about six months in and we didn't have a single project. We were burning through our savings to the point where we needed to close the studio. So, we decided to put together our artwork, print our first book and fly down to San Diego, for the Comic-Con for the very first time. We were giving our books away like flyers to different publishers. Upon returning from San Diego, roughly 2 weeks later, we received our first contract and it was an interior coloring job for a GI Joe comic.
CB: That’s a great story! Thankfully you and your team decided to go that route, or we may have been deprived of your creativity, a style that is said to be a blend of Eastern and Western. How has it progressed over time?
AG: That's interesting because I don’t ever really think about my style, nor ever had a game plan to develop it; I just let be. I was born and raised in Hong Kong actually, so I was heavily influenced by manga and anime stuff. I knew very little about American comics or American style. The only thing I knew back then was Mickey Mouse and Disney stuff. However, when I moved to Singapore, I started becoming more exposed to Western content, especially because the college I attended tried to work with a Western clients. This is where I learned about superheroes and what they do. So because of that, my style evolved. I brought along my Asian anime and manga style and fused it to the western comic book style, a combination I very much enjoy. It's really interesting actually, as a lot of comic fans feel my style is more geared towards anime, but to the Asian fans my style is very American.
Artgerm created a series of variants for DC's Supergirl
CB: You have amazing variant covers like Supergirl with DC, Jane Foster with Marvel. Who were some of the characters who are on your wishlist to draw?
Artgerm: It’s funny because Marvel and DC are constantly asking me this question: “Are there any characters you want to draw? We can make it happen!” To be honest, at this point I think I've drawn most of the characters I love, whether officially with the publishers or privately on my own time. So I'm pretty happy with I've accomplished and I'm very open to any characters that the publishers throw my way.
Artgerm's iconic character Pepper
CB: Excellent! So, my next question is for those who really know your creative process:, can you tell us a little about Pepper?
Artgerm: Oh what an interesting question! Pepper was developed when I was still running my advertising studio. As I told you, back then I really didn't have a chance to really draw anything. So, I created this character called Pepper, who is someone I love to draw on my free time and develop. It's a way for me to nurture and develop my own style. When I look at my Pepper projects, it started off with me imitating different artists’ styles: I would see something that inspired me and would draw her in that artist’s style.. I would do this all the time and what's funny is that to this very day I still have no idea what Pepper actually looks like. She looks different in every piece of my work, so it was a way for me to expand out of my comfort zone.The job of Pepper is to push me outside of my comfort zone. I can draw something cutesy or cartoony or wacky or richer or serious… so I have this big playground for me to push my comfort zone and try new things.
Titan Comics Stanley “Artgerm” Lau Cover
CB: As a young man first getting into comics what were some of the titles you were first really into? I do realize that Americanized comics didn’t come into play in the beginning, but what were some of the manga titles you were reading back then?
Artgerm: The closest one to me that I've actually worked on was Street Fighter. Robotech was also a big one.
CB: We polled our audience to give them the opportunity to contribute some fan questions for this interview. The first we would like to relay is: “Has there ever been a cover that you wished you could have made changes to after it was published?”
Artgerm: I think I can say that about every piece of my work! I get excited upon completion, but later I look at it and say “Oh sh*t, I should have done this… I should have done that…” I think it's natural for all artists. For example, with my skills today, I believe I could do much better Batgirl covers. But it's not something I want to change, because that marked the journey of my artistic path. So, I don't mind that being what it is. It feels a bit cringy sometimes if I'm looking at it now, but I will say that is just my history and I don't mind that.
CB: Wonderful. We have another fan question here. “Do you still read and collect comics? If so, which ones?”
Artgerm: Honestly? (Laughing) I don’t collect comics or read them at all. Most characters I'm told to draw for Marvel And DC comics I have no idea who they are. I mean, I know Batman, I know Spider-Man and Superman and Wonder Woman because of the movies. Other than that, however, I don’t really know much about most characters, you know?
Jane Foster Thor by Artgerm
CB: That’s interesting. Do you think maybe your success as an artist is related to the fact that you don’t overanalyze characters because you didn’t grow up with them?
Artgerm: That's true.I do respect the design of the character and do my best to research and conform to the original ideals of the character, but because of my Eastern background and style, I'm often able to inject something unique to the character, that maybe gives it a fresh feel or perspective.
CB: We have one final question for you and it's a question we ask all creators we interview.If you could be any superhero, who would it be?
Artgerm: I would like to be the Flash honestly. In my line of work speed is incredibly important. Really, really important actually.
CB: (Laughing) I get that. That makes perfect sense from an artist perspective. Stanley I really want to thank you very much for joining us today. We very much appreciate you taking time out of your very busy schedule to speak with us.
Artgerm: Thank you so much for having me, it was a pleasure to do it.
Check out Artgerm at artgerm.com and his store shop.artgerm.com.