I love pin-up art. Good girls. Curvy cuties. Whatever you care to call them, Joe Pekar draws them incredibly well! I managed to pull Joe away from his drawing board for a few minutes to tell us all a bit about himself, his art, and his women...
PS: Where did you grow up?
JP: Toms River, NJ.
PS: What was the first comic book you remember buying?
JP: Punisher #2 from the limited series Mike Zeck drew in the mid-80s. I
hated 'superí heroes as a kid. Superman and Spider-Man never held my interest. So when I
saw The Punisher, I thought 'cool, he's got a costume but he's loaded up with guns and
shoots people! That's awesome!' (Ah, the ignorance of youth. :) ) I was a big action movie
geek as a kid, if it was a war movie or martial arts flick, anything like that I watched it. I was
way more into movies than comics when I was younger. Then when I saw someone drawing
guns that looked 'realistic' it caught my eye. Before that point I thought all comics were
based around the heroes being good and saying 'don't do drugs kids!', so the Punisher
series really hooked me, he wasn't really a hero, but he wasn't a villain. Plus that cover that
Mike Zeck drew and Phil Zimmelman airbrushed was so different at the time, it really stood
out on the racks. (Yes, I bought it off a spinner rack at the local grocery store)
PS: In your childhood, which comic book / comic strip artists first caught your eye?
JP: Well for comic strips, I loved The Far Side by Gary Larson. and Bill
Watterson's Calvin And Hobbes. I remember cutting those strips out of the
newspaper and thumbtacking them on my walls in my room. I never had any interest in
drawing a comic strip, but I loved the humor in those 2 strips. And from time to time Bill
Watterson would show that he could really, really draw. :)
Mike Zeck was my first 'favorite' comic book artist. He was the first artist who made me
search out back issues specifically for his work. But once that happened, comic art became
a virus for me. I just kept finding other artists I liked, and so on and so on.
PS: Beyond, say, Petty, Vargas, & Elvgren, what pin-up artists drew you in?
JP: It was the book The Great American Pin-up published by Taschen in
the late 90's that really got me interested in it. There were tons of pinup artists in there that I
never heard of, like Elvgren (I was familiar with Petty and Vargas, mostly in name only at the
time). But there was also Al Moore, Earl MacPherson, Fritz Willis, Edward Runci and a
bunch more. I just loved the carefree style of the girls in those pinups. It wasn't overtly
sexy, it didn't need to be. it was the girl's spirit that they captured. That book hit me like a ton
of bricks. Like when you're a kid and say "That's what I want to do when I grow up! Mom,
Dad, I want to draw girls!" Except I just had to tell my wife. Who, to her credit, has never
had and issue with anything I draw. She just lets me do my thing (whatever that may be at
PS: What about pin-up art hit that button in you where you decided to have a go at
building a name at it?
JP: Well it wasn't so much that I decided I wanted to build a name at it, it was just
what I wanted to do. I worked in video games for a while and started drawing the girls for
fun, to impress (or embarrass) co-workers. And it just kind of evolved from there, to posting
art online at sites like the drawingboard.org and deviantart.com.
PS: What, to you, takes a piece past glamorous to sexy?
JP: See, for me I never try to draw 'sexy' (for the most part.). I just approach it in a
matter where I want it to look like she's having fun. Sexy sounds too serious for what I prefer
to draw. A little bit of humor, a little bit of fun helps make it more entertaining for the viewer
(at least that's what I try for...it's entertaining to me at least :))
PS: In 2007, you announced a Brandi Bare book that has yet to come out. What
JP: Funny you should mention that...I'm working on wrapping that comic up in the
next couple months. I got quite sidetracked with other work at the time, and as some people
may know, I have a horrible attention span. If I'm not into something, I just can't do it. Some
people call it 'flaky', I call it 'inspired'. So there were a bunch of other projects I found myself
working on that I was really into, and the comic slid off my radar for a bit. But it came back
with a vengeance in the past few months (after doing a few covers for other companies that
made me realize I needed to get it done).
PS: Your background is in 3-D animation & game design. What titles did you work on?
JP: Let's see, my first game was an Austin Powers game for the PS2 that
got cancelled after working on it for a year or two. Then I worked on a game called
Mary-Kate and Ashley's License to Drive. (Yes I worked on an Olsen Twins
game...and no, they didn't let me do any character designs. ;)). After that I spent a few years
working on a game called Geist for the Gamecube. Though I ended up quitting the
company before the game shipped due to not enjoying working late nights and weekends
while my kids were growing up around me. After that I was out of the game dev loop for a
while until a year or so ago when I did some concept art for a game on Xbox Live called
The Maw. I've also worked on a couple other projects that haven't come out yet.
(Pretty much just 2d art, not much 3d anymore for me).
PS: Has there ever been a commission you refused to do? If so, what was it & why
JP: I can't think of any that I've said 'No' to. I have done some...interesting ones,
but nothing that said 'good lord, I can't draw that!'. Of course I don't post all of those on my
site. :). Actually there's been a couple that could have gone that scary route, but I tried to
swirl the idea around into something I thought I could have fun with.
PS: In addition to your Naughty Girls! book, your work has appeared in several
Sal Q books. How did you first hook up with his royal Quartuccioness?
JP: Actually I got an email from Sal out of the blue one day asking if I was
interested in doing a book with them. I was kinda floored actually, but we ended up doing
the Naughty Girls! book and then when he needed something else he just emailed
and asked if I wanted to do something for a certain book.
PS: You've done quite a bit of digital work. What does it make available to you that
drawing/coloring by on paper/board does not?
JP: Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. So I try to keep a healthy mix of
the two. Working digitally definitely speeds up the process. And gives you a ton of options
to play around with (without wasting paint and money). Of course once it's finished, it's just
ones and zeroes. Drawing and painting traditionally gives you an actual real world object you
can hold and see how much effort went into it. You can look at the paper and say 'Ha! I beat
you! I made something out of you!' of course as most artists know, that feeling doesn't last
long and you see all the things you screwed up on. So working digitally has that going for it.
It's much easier to fix or tweak little problems that would take more time and effort
PS: You've drawn quite a few girls in pigtails. What's the attraction to you?
JP: Ha! sadly there's no special attraction...it was just something I did for fun that
seemed to catch on with people, so I kept doing it. So when people look back at my work,
they won't say 'This was his blue period...' like they do with Picasso, they'll say 'this was his
pigtail period, and this was his tattooed girl period....and so on.' Well, hopefully they'll say
PS: Is there any one character, or type of subject that dominates your commission
JP: Mostly super hero girls. I get asked to draw or paint a ton of superheroines
(though I've had a great range of characters over the years). Which is great by me, just
because I have such a love of comics and their history. So it's like getting to draw comics,
but only doing the fun parts :) But I try to approach most commissions in a fresh way each
time, just so it doesn't seem like I'm churning out the same picture time after time except
with a different costume.
PS: What projects do you have coming up in the near future?
JP: Well, I have a new sketchbook coming out in the next couple weeks. It should
be available at any of the cons I do, or off my website. It features some of my favorite past
commissions and some new paintings. And it's filled with in-progress shots, for people who
like that sorta thing. I also have my comic Brandi Bare just about done. I'll have
news of that posted on my site when it's gets closer to being published. Definitely this year
and then some other game related stuff that I can't talk about yet.
PS: Please tell me 6 pin-up artists whose work you love looking at.
JP: Hmmm, only 6 artists? I'll try. actually I have a new favorite artist every few
days. It's been like that since I was buying comics. I'd find a new artist and make him (or
her) my new favorite. but the title never lasts long for anyone. :)
in no particular order:
1. Gil Elvgren. Without a doubt my favorite pinup artist. He painted fun girls better than
2. Adam Hughes. On the comics side, nobody draws better than Adam. His comic con
sketches are some of the best around.
3. Jack Cole. His playboy cartoons were just amazing, especially his watercolors. Can't get
enough of those.
4. Shane Glines. modern day master. He does so much with so little. Great linework.
5. Alberto Ruiz. The man knows how to draw better than anyone, but he's an even better
person. (Though Alberto would never consider himself a pinup artist, he'd just call himself
an artist. :))
6. Everyone else. Whether it's cartoony or realistic, terrible or awesome, amateur or
professional. I could have listed a number of people there, but I just love looking at art and
seeing what everyone puts into it or gets out of it (especially if they're drawing girls :)). You
can learn as much from a bad drawing as you can from a good one. Sometimes even more.
PS: Since we write about music here as well, tell me 6 CDs you can't do
JP: Well I haven't bought an actual CD in years. But I'll try to remember some I
can't live without. I've never been a huge music buff. It's like those people who say 'I don't
know art, but I know what I like.' That's me with music. I have a few random things I enjoy
and listen to them over and over.
no particular order...
1. Stone Temple Pilots - Core. I played the hell out of this when it came out in the
early 90s. Still have the cd in my car. (Though it makes an appearance more on my ipod
more than in the car)
2. Slayer - Reign In Blood or Seasons In The Abyss. A toss up between the
two. though I probably lean towards Reign In Blood more.
3. Squirrel Nut Zippers - Hot (or Dynamite). Their first two cds were just
gold to me. once I heard them in the middle 90's or so...(maybe late 90's I can't remember)
I just couldn't get over them. Especially any of the songs Katherine Whalen sang. Loved her
voice but always wished she had a bit more range ;))
4. Billie Holiday - any greatest hits cd. Now she had the range! I could listen
to her voice all day.
5. Half-Life soundtrack. The music to both Half-Life video games. I tend to
listen to a lot of soundtracks, but I just love the music to these games (and love the games
6. Crystal Method. Ok, now I don't have a particular cd of theirs, as I've just started
listening to them in the past couple years. So I've just got a mismash of their songs off
itunes. But they're always at the top of the playlist :) I've never been considered trendy or of
the hipster sort. I don't know much about the indie music scene and the like. Basically as a
music listener I probably suck. But I just get around to listening to stuff on my own time.