Frank Cho has a degree in nursing, but he’s never practiced medicine a day in his life.
He keeps his degree in a black frame above the toilet in his bathroom.
“My parents wanted me to become a doctor. I was good at biology, but I went to nursing school to please my parents,” Cho said.
He studied at the University of Maryland, College Park, where in addition to pursuing a nursing degree he nurtured his true passion -- art.
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Cho, now 43, has more than a decade’s experience working for Marvel Comics. He hadn’t even graduated from Maryland before receiving job offers to draw cartoons for newspapers.
“I walked on stage, got my bachelor’s degree in nursing. Had dinner with my parents. And then, started drawing cartoons,” he said.
In 1993, he was named best college newspaper artist for his work with The Diamondback, the university’s student-run newspaper. He was a nationally-syndicated cartoonist before he turned 25.
“Newspaper syndication at that time – still is – like a one in a million shot,” Cho said. “I’m extremely lucky to be doing what I’m doing.”
But his nursing degree has come in handy.
“Over time you just start to understand the anatomy of the figure, the human body. Again, I have a science background, so I know it well,” Cho said.
The award-winning artist is currently working on the re-launch of one of Marvel’s most iconic characters – The Hulk. Knowing all those muscles helps.
“I am actually very excited and happy to be on the new Hulk relaunch with Greg Pak at Marvel,” Cho said. “Greg Pak is one of my favorite writers in the business. To work with him is a dream come true.”
Cho added the new Hulk is venturing into a new frontier for the legendary Marvel universe .
“It’s this great big, wide open, wild west,” he said.
The Hulk will cease to be “Incredible” in favor of being “Totally Awesome,” in addition to becoming Marvel’s first Asian-American lead superhero. Enter Amadeus Cho (no relation, obviously).
“Bruce Banner is still featured. He’s a big part of the comic book,” Cho cautioned. “Unlike Bruce Banner, who is kind of depressed and kind of angry that he’s burden with this problem, Amadeus Cho is the opposite. He loves being the Hulk. There is this optimism that is completely different from the Hulk.”
Cho and Pak will be featured on a Marvel panel at Baltimore Comic-Con next weekend to talk more about the release of the new Hulk series, which is due out in December.
Cho knew he wanted to be a comic book artist when he was in the fifth grade.
“I really just wanted to do something in the art world. I’ve always been a fan of comics,” Cho said. “I went to nursing school to keep my parents off my back.”
He still remembers the first two comics he purchased with his own money: Fantastic Four No. 250 and The Uncanny X-Men No. 166.
“Ever since I saw those, I was hooked,” he said.
And now, “at this point, I’ve done pretty much all the major characters: Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine, The X-Men, The Hulk,” Cho continued.
He said the easiest character to draw is The Hulk. The hardest? Iron Man.
“I hate drawing mechanical things. It’s like drawing a car. You have to remember all these angles, panels and doo-hickeys,” Cho said. “The Hulk is just like a shaved gorilla.”
Interestingly enough, primates interest Cho, whose personal website is called ApesAndBabes.com . His blog is a series of panels about life updates from the ongoing saga of getting his kitchen redone to racy posts featuring his other interest – “the babes.”
“Monkeys, King Kong were a big part of my childhood,” Cho said. “I’m a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. But my interests are all over the place: monkeys, monsters, sci-fi, superheroes, women.”
His living room right now is a testament to his interests. Three 6-foot oil paintings show King Kong grappling with a dinosaur, a scenic view from Utah and the gorgeous Emma Frost, of X-Men fame.
Twenty pieces of his work will be featured in an exhibit at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum next week, ahead of Baltimore Comic-Con.