At an early age, Ramon Villalobos knew he wanted to be a comic book artist.
He was introduced to the genre via the newspapers, where he would draw characters from ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Garfield.’
“We couldn’t afford to buy comic books so I turned to the comic strips,” he recently said.
Villalobos, 26, once hit the mother lode when he stumbled across a bunch of comic books for cheap at a yard sale. “I just went nuts,” he said.
His dream of becoming a comic book artist became official when he was hired by Marvel Comics to do ‘What If? Age of Ultron’ (see sidebar story).
Villalobos has plenty of his artwork displayed online at www.ramonvillalobos.tumblr.com or www.facebook.com/RamonVillalobos. He credited that for getting him the recognition to do odd jobs coupled with his recent calling from Marvel Comics.
Villalobos was contacted by an editor of Marvel in December to do the ‘What If?’ series. “I was excited when I got the first notice but I wasn’t sure if I was ready,” he said.
Joe Keatinge, the writer, liked Villalobos’ potential. Ramon collaborated nicely with Keatinge as he was given plenty of freedom to do his own style.
“The changes were minor,” Villalobos said. “I stuck with (Keatinge’s) script.”
His influences are Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled: The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot), Frank Quietly (New X-Men, All-Star Superman, Batman and Robin), and the legendary Jack Kirby (Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor and X-Men).
Villalobos was greatly inspired by ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.’
This ground-breaking, four-issue miniseries of the late 1980s by Frank Miller included art work done in what the publisher called the prestige format – square bound rather than stapled, and on heavy-stock paper over that of newsprint.
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Mr. G impressed with Villalobos
A 2005 graduate of Manteca High, Villalobos also attended Manteca Unified’s Shasta and Brock Elliott elementary schools. He recalled being wowed the first time he saw the MHS Mural Museum.
“I thought all high schools were like this,” said Villalobos, who knew that this was the school for him.
It was there he met Kirt Giovannoni.
Known as Mr. G, the art teacher challenged the youngster. At same time, he tried not to discourage Villalobos from his love of comic books but, instead, stressed the fundamentals in painting, drawing and the fine arts. He took on whatever assignment with the same enthusiasm as that of his first love.
“But that’s the kind of kid he was back then,” said recently retired Giovannoni. “If I had 30 Ramons, I would have never retired.”
There was always time for Villalobos to draw Superman, Batman, Wolverine, or Spider-Man.
Whether it was DC or Marvel comic book superheroes it didn’t matter much to him. Villalobos drew up Mr. Fantastic vs. Superman in his poster for last year’s Stockton Con (he’s currently working with organizers on Stockton Con 2014 scheduled for Aug. 9-10 at the Stockton Arena).
In another of his drawings, he pitted the Thing from the Fantastic Four vs. Batman.
In seventh grade, Villalobos and his friends went through their comic book phase. Prior to that, they collected Pokémon cards.
They went as so far as to take a stab of doing their own comic book.
“We did two pages,” Villalobos recalled. “I drew while another inked and someone colored – we all chipped in with the writing.”
He moved to Stockton in 10th grade. But Villalobos found a way to continue going to MHS.
“I would take the bus from Stockton and get to the furniture store in front of school about a minute before the first bell,” he said.
Later that school year, he was able to stay with a relative during the weekdays. All during that time, Villalobos never missed a day of class.
“I know he never missed my class,” said Giovannoni, who ranks Villalobos high on his list of former students alongside Glen Eisner, a special effects / visual effects / makeup artist in Hollywood.
Villalobos is one of the very few MHS students to contribute four murals to the outside museum started by Giovannoni in 1996 as part of an effort to revitalize the educational environment for students, teachers, administrators and staff of the school. By the time he retired in 2012, Giovannoni had over 230 murals while receiving national attention from a weekend insert magazine.
Villalobos, who attended Delta College, had tinkered with idea of following Mr. G by becoming a teacher. Those plans were subsequently put on hold when the major comic book publication sought his services.
“Of all of my students, Ramon was very, very specific on what he wanted to do,” said Giovannoni, who has a hobby of fixing up classic cars, commissioned Villalobos to do the art work featured inside the garage at his Oakdale home.
After starting in February, Villalobos took a little bit over a month to finish the task at hand. He knew he made it when he received his first big paycheck.
He made a few modest purchases and has doing a few autograph sessions including Al’s Comics in Stockton.
Ramon Villalobos is living his dream.