An Interview with Artist Zak Kinsella

meet zak
Ink and watercolor #MeetTheArtist piece

Fresh from Denver Comic Con, we met up with Denver comic book artist Zak Kinsella about his work, what inspired him as a kid, his views on how Denver is changing, and what’s next for him. Artist and writer on books like Midspace,” King Maul, and Outré Veil,  Kinsella’s wit, expression and honesty is what draws readers to his work. He has also worked for the Westword and The New York Times and has some exciting news about where he might be headed next.

Hush Comics: What made you want to be an artist?

Zak Kinsella: I think it really popped into me in junior high. I was always drawing beforehand. My mom’s an artist… Mostly it was just getting back into comics when I was in junior high, like X-Men. That really popped for me. I thought, “I’m going to start drawing these things. These comic books.”

HC: Did you start with drawing those characters?

ZK: Yeah. I had been used to drawing before so drawing outside in the real world, like life drawing, [I thought] “well, let’s try drawing some muscly dudes.” And then I realized I love it.

HC: How did you get started doing that professionally?

ZK: I decided I wanted to. I started putting out my own books and before I was an illustrator— a pretty successful one, too— and I’m a pretty successful one right now, too, but you get to a point in the road where you think, “Man, illustration’s really cool and I’ve done cool work but it’s still not comic books.” They have this really weird grasp on you. They’re really the road less taken and they’re way more fun than drawing for Men’s Health or something like that or even New York Times, which I’ve done before. I mean, that’s big name stuff but it’s still not [as] fun [as] comics. I didn’t want to be one of those people that was stuck in what they hated doing.

HC: What about comics inspires you most? What about X-Men inspired you as a kid?

ZK: I moved around a lot as a kid, but we grew up in Texas and I don’t like football, I don’t play sports [except for] swim team… so that’s kind of like the outcast. If you’re not playing football, you’re not accepted. [Reading] the X-Men as a kid it was like, “These guys are always getting crapped on while they’re trying to do a good job at something.” And that was like, “I’m on the swim team!” “Oh, great job. You don’t play football. Let’s punch you…” A lot of those themes are repeated throughout the X-Men, plus, with those comics they’re exciting because they’re not like a lot of the other mainstream comics. They deal with a lot of progressive feminism and acceptance and love and stuff that’s just really cool while all at the same time [there’s] dudes in tights punching each other. It made progressive-ism accessible to a young man. It’s not your typical power struggle fantasy. It straddles those boundaries but if you look at their best character Storm. I mean, she was punk rock Storm.

HC: Is she your favorite character?

ZK: No, I was actually more of a Nightcrawler [fan] and more than anything else I was a Cyclops fan. Everyone’s like, “Okaaaay,” but I love that guy. He gets the job done. Everyone thinks he’s a tool but tools get the job done.

zak kinsella
Zak Kinsella at Denver Comic Con

HC: You seem to illustrate for a lot of projects in the science fiction vein. What do you like most about that genre that keeps you coming back for more?

ZK: It’s what I grew up on. X-Files was a big thing for me, but also growing up as a kid I used to read these things called, Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. They were just these dumb books about the outer limits. Twilight Zone was a big thing [for me and so was] In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. All those things and then, a healthy dose of British science fiction on PBS. I lot of these things came from my mom, honestly. We’d watch Doctor Who thirty years before anyone followed it. [We thought,] “Oh, Doctor Who sounds pretty cool.” [I also liked] the obvious stuff like Star Wars. A lot of that stuff is influential. Science Fiction does such a great job of critiquing humanity while being like, “Hey, this takes places with robots in outer space.” It’s just cool.

I feel like [in my own work] I feel like I have much more of a creative license. I can make stuff up. “I have no idea what this planet would look like. Let’s just make it up. What the hell.” I also find space to be a very romantic backdrop. Like in The Final Frontier, there is so much space unexplored. You can’t even believe what we’re going to run into out there and that leaves infinite possibilities for storytelling.

HC: What’s it like working with a comic book writer? Can you explain that collaborative dynamic?

ZK: I’ve had a couple of good experiences and a couple of bad experiences. Sometimes their excitement can bleed into anxiousness and then they’re always bugging you…

HC: Kind of feels like they’re nagging you?

ZK: Yeah. I mean, it’s exciting and it’s something we’re both stoked to work on together, but I have to balance the book I’m working on right now with freelance work… But it has to be a collaboration or that sort of thing just sort of starts to grow like a cancer in a friendship and kills it. I had a really trying experience with that last year. I had to walk off a book, and I have no regrets about that. It was just too much for me.

HC: It’s a lot to deal with. You both are sort of demanding on each other.

ZK: Well, yeah because you want it to be the best and put your best foot forward, otherwise what’s the point? But, you have to set boundaries. I’ve left a couple of books like that where I’ve said, “Look, this isn’t working unless we figure this stuff out. We gotta put our big boy pants on and deal with this.” I generally like working with writers, but I’ve also come to realize that I’m pretty good at writing myself, so that’s why I’ve started branching out. I wouldn’t not recommend [working with a writer.] “Never work with a writer,” that’s dumb!

HC: What’s your favorite type of collaboration? What dynamic do you prefer?

ZK: Last year when I worked on King Maul I worked with a guy who used to be an editor for Marvel and it was a great experience because he knew when to lay off and when to put the pressure on… Someone who knows what they want to do and is free to let me experiment a little and find my own voice in the mix [is what I prefer] because I find that if it starts off as collaboration and then ends up with me just getting told what to do then it’s like, “Well this kind of sucks. I don’t have control over how the story’s going to look. I’m not trying to change plot parts of it really, but I like to have some sort of input into where it’s going.” That’s really the best part of it. If you’re just going to be a gun for hire, then I don’t see the point. You need to have room to spread your wings. I’ve known a lot of guys who get in there and do big books for big companies and it just leaves them emotionally drained and they’re like, ‘I want time to do my own book but I can’t afford that,’ so they kind of paint themselves into a corner. But it’s changing, so that’s good.

HC: How do you feel like it’s changing?

ZK: I can kind of trace it to Image [Comics], really. All that Walking Dead money? They’re like, “Yeah, let’s put out some cool stuff and get some real big creators in to do it.”

HC: They do a lot of indie stuff.

ZK: [Laughing] But not like “sad-bastard-depressed indie.” To put it subtly. That kind of indie is good too, but… They’re like a television station that’s not like Syfy… You’ve got a variety of things.

HC: There’s an Image comic for everyone.

ZK: I’d say so.

HC: You say on your website that you sketch and ink by hand and color digitally. Why do you prefer that method?

ZK: I like to make a mess. No Wacom stylus is ever going to give me the same feeling that a brush does. Really with art, whatever tool works for you, good, you know? If you’re going to use Manga Studios to make your comics, cool. That’s awesome. It’s just not for me… I use a lead holder and that helps give me brush lines with my pencil. My pencils aren’t too tight anymore, either. The brushes do the heavy lifting. I would have to change my pencil style if I ever got an inker. I just love the feel of the brush. That’s honestly all it is. With coloring digitally, I’ve been using a lot of watercolor lately and ink wash and graphite. You can manipulate those in different ways to get different types of texture with your digital coloring as well… Digital also allows me a physical piece I can sell to someone afterwards and I do sell a pretty decent amount of work at conventions and online.

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HC: I love your “Disappearing Denver” piece. What struck you personally about Five Points that inspired you to draw that?

ZK: When I first moved there a couple of years ago it was still pretty grim and gritty, if I can relate it to comic book terminology. But the thing about that place is it had so much class. A lot of the buildings are just beautiful. It reminded me a living in the South.

HC: How so?

ZK: Just the architecture style and the fact that’s it’s not all white washed [but] now it’s becoming gentrified.

HC: I really hate a lot of modern architecture.

ZK: I do as well. I find it to be absolutely ugly, lego, Chipotle architecture with only mutual colors. I think a bigger part of it is people come in and they don’t respect the culture of the area. I chose that neighborhood because the rent wasn’t too expensive at the time and… I used to go to a lot of warehouse shows and Larimer Lounge shows. Monkey Mania was over there. That place was cool. I was so sick of being in Highlands Ranch or Littleton and the only person of color you’d see if mowing a lawn, you know? It’s like, “Dude this place f***ing sucks, man.”

Now…it’s just a breeding ground for violence with people coming out of the Rockies games drunk… My neighbor’s been there since 1942. His family has been in that house next door and some of the stories he has of the neighborhood changing over the last 60 years is just gonzo. So, you start to lose that sense of history and love and culture. That’s what brought it around for me. I just thought it was sad… And that’s the cool part about comics is that I can make a comic about that and have it speak as loud as anything else out there… Art should be a pipe bomb… A lot of people who complimented that strip said, “Wow, this is what’s going on. This is exactly what’s going on.”

HC: I read an article in Westword that mentioned your involvement with a comedy show called “Picture This.” Can you talk a little bit about that collaboration?

ZK: It was really cool. They’re a touring comedy troupe. They’ll do a set of standup comedians and have an artist pair up with each of them and they animate their set live. I did really quick sketches. I had the opportunity to work with Adam Cayton-Holland… I love standup. It’s awesome. I think comic book artists and comedians share some of the same— not saying great qualities but— we love this and it doesn’t pay a lot… but it’s what we’re going to do… A comedian has a totally different set of tools [than I do] and they have to be up in front of people doing it, which is…[ He shakes his head, his eyes wide with faux fear.] Nope, nope, nope…. Adam did like ten minutes of standup while I was drawing right behind him to kind of mimic that. We were rifting off each other. It was pretty cool. We have very similar senses of humor and tastes…

HC: Was that nerve-racking to be in front of people?

ZK: No, I was off in the corner. He would point out to me and he’d ask me [something] and I’d draw in response. It’s so cool because [Holland] has a TV show on True TV now… and he’s from here. It’s freaking awesome… That was a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it again, actually. It was a little nerve-racking but at the same time it was pretty cool. I just worked at Rock Comic Con drawing live in front of crowds so that doesn’t bother me anymore. [It’s the] same thing with conventions. I’ll do commissions while talking to people. I have no problem drawing anywhere at any time anymore.

HC: Why do you think most of your audience is female?

ZK: I’m not afraid to talk to people without that judgmental tone, like “You haven’t read Superman #238 where he rides a robot?” Like, who cares?

HC: I feel like a lot of nerds try to play gatekeeper. Like, “shut up. There was a time when you didn’t know anything about this, that or the other thing.”

ZK: Right, and that’s the thing with gatekeepers… [There was] that kid who had [a] Doctor Strange thing who was saying, ‘Oh man! They’re making a Doctor Strange movie! Awesome!’ and the dealer kicked him out of his booth because he didn’t know anything. Like, what kind of a short sighted dipshit are you to say [that?] Instead, “Oh, you want to know more about him? I’ve got 40,000 books about Doctor Strange. Dip in on this, bro.” [He said something like,] “Ugh. Get out of my booth you unworthy maggot!”… If I was at that convention I would have gone and taken a dump in that guy’s booth. “F*** your elitism.” Right? I won’t deal with it.

Outre veil

HC: I’ve been told you have some exciting news. What’s next for you?

ZK: [He hesitates.]

HC: Are you not allowed to give away any big news yet?

ZK: I guess I can talk about my experiences with what I’m working on right now. I went to Emerald City Comic Con and Vertigo was giving out appointment times. They were like, “Hey, come pitch to us. We’re looking for new people,” basically. I got one by the end of the show and at the end of the show I went there and I pitched something that I’m working on right now called Outré Veil… and they liked it a lot so they gave me their card to follow up with them. For the last three months you can go through a workshop process with the pitch. Ends up Vertigo decided not to do Science Fiction. They were like, “We’re going to pass on this. However, we might want to use you as an artist here soon, and we’re open to more ideas from you.” So I’m working on another one with them right now. But I’ve got some buddies who want to do some books for me as well, too so I’m working on a pitch for another company right now and that one I definitely can’t talk about. That one’s pretty exciting. It’s going to be really cool.

I just want to get Outré Veil done and I’m working on a book about my uncle, too… I had never done comics [that are] autobiographical because I was like, “This is a bunch of sad sack of shit.” I respect it, but it’s not for me. And then I went through- it wasn’t a bad breakup but it was really tough because it kind of came out of nowhere. I was like, “This sucks.” So, I started going to Denver Drink and Draw and one of my buddies there was like, “Why don’t you make a comic out of this?” and it just came out of [that.] I love that group because we challenge each other. And it’s always an open environment. There’s no real shaming [or] judging… So I put out a short comic just trying to work out my feelings and it went over really well. If you think putting your artwork out there that’s about chimpanzees in space… it’s nothing compared to putting something out about someone you have a breakup with… It was a huge, huge thing to do. But when I put it out, I got a lot of, “Wow, this is awesome. What’s next?”

And then it just kind of hit me, “Man, I should make a book about [my uncle] Dan.” You’re just trying to suss out your feelings about things. Growing up, he had a lot of issues like ADHD and drug addiction, you know? And finally, as he was cleaning up his life- spoiler alert- he dies in a motorcycle accident. He died instantly, which was kind of nice. I always decided to do it in a sketchbook format. It’s tiny. I come here [to City ‘o City] and I work with Noah Van Sciver a lot. He’s been doing all his comics that size so I thought, ‘Why don’t I do them like that?’ It’s been really good.

HC: I feel like creative non-fiction affords a lot to both the author and the reader.

ZK: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of doing more personal ones not so much about death as well but dating right now is such a shit show with all the apps and being broken up with over text and stuff like that. Are you all just devolving? What’s going on? I’m trying to make it so it’s not whiney and awful.

HC: Honest but not “Woe is me!”

ZK: Right, because you read so many comics that are like that on the alternative press. It would be nice to have something that’s indicative of the times right now that someone can look at 50 or 40 years back and think “Alright. That’s how it was.” Separating the ego from the artist can be an uphill battle. It’s like reading a Hemingway novel. It can be like walking through mud, reading that guy’s prose. It’s just tough.

HC: A lot of literature romanticizes pain. A lot of authors don’t have a bullshit detector. That’s why I like stuff like The Fault in Our Stars or Juno. It talks about heavy stuff but it doesn’t romanticize it.

ZK: There’s nothing romantic about this. It just kind of sucks. How do you make this point of “this is hurting. This sucks,” but also to be optimistic? To be like, “Look, it’s not always like this,” and I’m having a lot of fun [drawing about pain] but holy shit, this can be draining. And that’s how comics are. This is tough, man.

You can find out more about Zak Kinsella and his work on his website, Facebook page, tumblr and DeviantArt page.

All art and photos belong to Zak Kinsella.

The Ripple Effect: The New Voices of YA…An interview with Writer Brian W. Parker on his novel Crow in the Hollow

It sounds crazy, but I read like I’m a heroin addict. Given the opportunity of free time, I devour mountains of books like it’s nothing. Because of this though, it has gotten harder to come across works of fiction that are original and don’t use the same old trite, and cliché storylines. I feel there is a rather frustrating disconnect with mainstream publishing companies who really hold the keys to which stories get out there. Searching for novels that breathe new life into Fantasy and Sci-Fi can be daunting as you hunt in the small corners and obscure outlets where writing with a different perspective await.

I follow a Tumblr called Medieval POC (People of Color). If you’re on Tumblr, I highly recommend you do it NOW. It’s a fantastic blog with its aim to share art and stories of Medieval People of Color which dismantles the idea that people of color didn’t exist in medieval Europe. They also have a Patreon if you want to help out and donate money. http://www.patreon.com/medievalpoc

Recently, they posted a fiction week and listed several Fantasy and Sci-Fi novels written by and/or about people of color. It was nice to have quick and easy access to a list of stories that weren’t the cookie cutter white experience.  As an educator, this Tumblr became an extremely helpful resource. Because of the Tumblr, I was able to start buying books I wanted to read that I could also recommended to my students. One particular novel that caught my eye was Crow in the Hollow by Brian W. Parker. The artwork was intriguing and I ordered the book a couple days later.

After reading the novel, I honestly felt more optimistic about the genre and its potential, but I also felt frustrated because it shouldn’t be this hard to find such diversity in the written word. This book should be as easy to find at Barnes and Nobles as The Hunger Games is. Crow in the Hollow was a different story, a story that I’ve always wanted to read. It’s complex and intriguing. The landscape is breathtaking, and the art has a way of drawing you further into the story. I haven’t been this excitedly pulled in by novel in,well, I don’t know how long. The internet being the awesome thing that it is, I was able to send an email to the writer and asked him if I could interview him.  I hope once you’ve read our interview, you go out and buy his work!


 

Could you give me a quick summary of Crow in the Hollow?

      Crow in the Hollow is about Suqata, the last of the Chinequewa people and he is gifted with the voice of magic. He was found wandering in the wilderness with no memory of his home and family.  Suqata is forced into slavery in the Kaelish Colonies. All the while, his power to “sing change into the world” grows inside him. When he’s taken to Orin’s Hollow to serve as the personal servant of Captain Graye, Suquata is forced to abandon his power in order to earn a place in the world of the outlanders. This soon changes with the arrival of the new governor and his mysterious daughter from across the sea. This sets actions into motion that will change the colonies. Ancient powers, otherworldly wolf packs, and forgotten gods all play at the strings of destiny. Suqata must find the power in his own voice to do the impossible.

On Kickstarter you said Crow in the Hollow was an idea that has been with you for 8 years in which you’ve continually worked and crafted this story. Can you tell me a little more about your creative process and your journey with getting this story from your mind to the public?

While I was working on my undergraduate degree in graphic design, I made an illustration for a class of a young man standing in the shadow of a massive crow. I don’t know exactly where the image was inspired from, but it stayed with me slowly taking form over time. Soon it became a story, with characters becoming more and more fleshed out as it revealed itself. I got to a point where I realized that I was going to have to make the story come to life in some form – a book, graphic novel, or maybe even a film. Somehow, Crow in the Hollow would have to be shared with others. For years I wrote and re-wrote it, illustrating scenes and constantly sketching the characters, but I was always unsure of my ability to do justice to what was in my mind. It wasn’t until I gave up the fear of getting things wrong that I was able to really sit down and create the final book.

What has it been like working with Inkwater Publishing? Looking at their website, they seem like a good company to work with if people want to get their work published.

They’re great! Inkwater Publishing has been very supportive of my work. They have a great backlist of titles, and work with very talented authors and illustrators, and employ a top notch group of publishing professionals. If you get a chance to see the final design of my physical book, you’ll see it was beautifully handled, and I love that attention to detail. I’m really hoping to work with them on my next project, The Wondrous Science.

Your art is breathtaking and I was wondering if you could speak about yourself as a visual artist and how this informs your narrative? I feel it adds a depth to your story.

When I was a kid, I really wanted to tell stories but found that I had a hard time finishing the ones that I would write. It was also really hard to get my busy parents to sit down long enough to read anything that I wrote. Luckily, both of my older brothers were pretty good at drawing and they taught me everything they knew. With art I was able to tell a story with imagery and get across my ideas much easier. By time I was in junior high, I was hooked. There is something very satisfying about envisioning a scene and to bring it to life in my sketch pad with pencil or pen & ink. Eventually I decided to go into a career as a graphic artist, but deep in my heart I have always been a storyteller.

Why do you write? And what keeps you writing?

Stories have always been a big part of who I am. My mother is a self-taught reader, and has always instilled in me a love of the written word. I admit it’s kind of geeky, but even as a small child, I loved to go to old bookstores. There was something about the smell, and that comforting feeling of the heavy laden shelving surrounding me that made me feel at home. Holding a book in your hand is the same as holding an idea made tangible. That is incredible to me, and authors always seemed more like magicians. No matter what turn I’ve made in my life and career, that love of stories and books has always driven me, and I feel that becoming a writer was just inevitable. As long as the stories keep coming to me, I know they will have to find their way out.

How much research was involved when you wrote Crow in the Hollow?

I think I did a lot of research as I was writing the book, but probably not as efficiently as I could have. When you’re writing fantasy there is a great deal of wiggle room when it comes to details, but since the world I created is very closely related to colonial America, I knew I needed the grounding of history to make the story believable. I read a lot about the French-Indian War and the politics of the early colonies. My favorite part of the research process, however, was studying the different native tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Although the tribes in the Crow in the Hollow are kind of an amalgamation of many different native cultures from America, Africa, and Australia, their ground work is found in the Tlingit and Haida tribes of Northern Washington.

What draws you to Young Adult? And what is your hope with writing Crow in the Hollow?

Some of the most influential books I’ve ever read are considered YA, so I can’t think of a better playground for my characters. There is something about reading a story about a young protagonist that touches on something core to the human experience. There is the turmoil of facing a world that feels too big to handle, and all of the self-doubt and questioning that comes with it. Against incredible odds, heroes must grow and face their fears, and by doing so teach the reader that they can do so as well. That is the beauty of fiction – it teaches through story. The adventures Bilbo Baggins, Sparrowhawk the Wizard, and Sabriel taught me what it meant to be hero in my own life, just as much as reading about real life heroes.

Which writers inspire and inform your work?

Of course I have to give a nod to Tolkien. He was my favorite author growing up, but since then he has been joined by the likes of Ursula K. LeGuin, Garth Nix, and Neil Gaiman. I love imaginative fiction – the kind of stories that truly transport you another place and time where the rules of reality and magic are never what you expect. However, you have to read a diverse selection of authors, so I’ll include Agatha Christie, Dan Brown, and the incredible Rainbow Rowell (I loved Eleanor & Park.)

As for Crow in the Hollow, what sparked your inspiration to have your magic based in word weaving and singing. There is a strong connection to music/words and the power it has with your characters. I am also curious with the language you used. Does it belong to a particular tribe of people?

The idea of magic and change coming from the power of words is really just a nod to true and lasting power of words in our everyday life. I think that we take this for granted in our modern age, but some of the biggest changes in our shared human history have come through new ways of capturing the spoken word. From the invention of writing, to Gutenberg’s printing press, all the way to the creation of the first computers – these innovations are just ways of cataloging and capturing our thoughts, dreams and aspirations. That is kind of amazing if you think about it!

I was raised in a very spiritual home, and read Bible stories from a very young age. Genesis was always my favorite book in the Bible, especially how it begins. There is something about the idea that in the beginning there was nothing, until a still, solitary voice rung out through the void and said, “Let there be light!” Words are ideas made manifest, and with them you can change the world.

As for the language I use in the book, it’s actually a combination of syllabic sounds from the Tlingit and Haida languages. I wish I knew someone who could make full languages! I would definitely love to further explore the language of the Chinequewa.

The parallel to U.S History is pretty clear. As a reader I appreciated the other side of history and this reclaiming of a voice. What is your inspiration from history and what is your hope bringing this past voices to the present?

I guess my inspiration would have to be my own ancestry. My family comes from Mississippi, and were slaves there for centuries, but I also have Choctaw in my family tree. Both Africans and Native-Americans suffered great injustices in American history, and both are tribal cultures. However, through circumstances and events, the Native American cultures were able to hold onto some sense of who they were and where they came from. Over time, slaves began to disconnect themselves from their tribal roots, and in a way, African Americans are still trying to reconnect with their sense of history and identity.

While writing Crow in the Hollow, I wanted to paint a picture of a world similar to our own that was facing some of the same turmoil that our country faced in its infancy. By making that parallel, I was able to talk about the effects of slavery on tribal people, and in a small way express some of my own personal feelings about reconnecting with my heritage. Suqata tries so hard to be accepted in the world that he is raised in, almost to the point that he abandons his own history. The story is about not only his hero’s quest, but also about reclaiming his sense of self.

I thought it was interesting that The Umbar and the Chinequewa are of the same people but separated by water. It seems like  it opens a lot for sequels to follow. Will we get to know more about them in books to follow and will we get to see more of Suqata and the Crow?

Oh most definitely! I’ve always imagined the story unfolding over the course of years, exploring the changes that will happen in the Kaelish Colonies, and eventually the war that erupts. Without giving too much away, the connection between the Umbar and Chinequewa will be further explored, as well as the connection with Knights of Ascalion.

Also, I am curious about your draw to the symbol of the crow. I’ve also had a liking to the crow and it is not often used in literature. Is he your favorite trickster archetype?

The crow is most certainly my favorite Trickster archetype. I love that fact that tricksters in Native American stories, though trouble-makers, are usually benevolent and work to help humanity. I wanted to keep that tradition alive with Cora-Vaco.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: http://believeinwonder.weebly.com/

Blog: http://believeinwonder.weebly.com/brians-blog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrianTheSwankyOne

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SwankyPlatypi

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interview – Yanick Paquette

We were just walking around Denver Comic Con, minding our own business, when Yanick Paquette decided to be the coolest guy in the world. About a month ago, we decided to spotlight our favorite guests at the convention, and Yanick was quite impressed with our research on his piece. When we met him at the convention, we saw not only his extreme talents, but his charisma at work. After chatting it up for 10-15 minutes at his booth, watching him draw a commission for Jean Grey, he asked us if we would like to interview him the following morning. YES! We tried to play it off cool, but we were really excited to meet him. One day and a full night of research later, we were ready to go. We discussed everything from Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman: Earth One to independent books and colorists. He is a full transcription of what went down when Robert and Sherif sat down to interview Yanick Paquette.

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles

 

Hush Comics: You just got back from an insane touring schedule in Europe. How does the comic book convention scene abroad compare to how it is in America?

Yanick Paquette: Well, a few years ago, in Europe, you would not charge for sketches and it was more about meeting the fans, I guess. The way I see it, the modern convention, the American structure where fans come and pay for sketches and fans interact, is really the model for everybody now. Except maybe France, who will always resist. In the U.K. for instance, the shows are getting bigger, better and longer. This is the case in the United States, too. Here, it is the third year in Denver. It is a pretty decent, huge show. In Montreal, I’m from Montreal, and there were little shows trying to pop up now and then and there were crappy shows and they didn’t last. We have a show in Montreal. I’m not sure how many editions there are, maybe the 5th edition. Now there is some traction.

I am doing a lot of shows, only because my schedule allows it. As I’m not doing a monthly book, I can agree to more. For instance, in August, I am going to Argentina. Eduardo Risso has a small show there. He’s invited just a few people. That is going to be fun. I’m doing Malta. I’m doing a few other shows abroad. [This weekend] it is Charlotte for me. I’m all over the place. It’s good. When I started doing comics, the idea was, ‘Can I get a living out of just drawing? That is good enough if I can get a living out of drawing. Not even a big living, just drawing and get some money.’ That was good enough. But it turned out it’s a way to travel now, so I am traveling all over the place. That was unexpected, but it’s great.

HC: Checking out your Twitter feed, we see that you do as much promoting of other creators as you do for yourself. Is there any work out right now that you feel that the world needs to know more about?

YP: There is Jeremy Bastian, over there. He has a booth here. He is doing something called Cursed Pirate Girl. His stuff is absolutely amazing. He is shy and gentle, and he works his thing. It’s, of course, not Marvel and DC, because it is way too good. He’s been doing his thing forever. Now he is getting some attention in Europe. Obviously that kind of material will work super well in France. I think he is getting there now. Everyone should be aware of this man’s existence because he is just a miracle.

Taken from Jeremy Bastian's Blogspot. Buy Cursed Pirate Girl here.
Taken from Jeremy Bastian’s Blogspot. Buy Cursed Pirate Girl here.

HC: A couple of months ago you expressed the need for DC to start trying to keep their elite colorists in their staple. Can you go into some detail about how much a colorist contributes to the work of the book?

YP: It is a massive contribution. I’m not going to give names, but I’ve been colored by people who have just destroyed my entire month of work. As you open a book, it is the first thing you see. You don’t see the story, because you have to read it. The picture takes some time to acknowledge, but the color is the first thing that is going to punch you in the face. A good colorist can help you with the story telling, can push forward the understanding of the page – the atmosphere and everything. I’m inking myself. I’m penciling and inking, and the only other guy on the team is the colorist. It’s a two-man operation. There’s a lot that I leave for him to do, and it’s truly a team effort. Back in the day, in the 80’s for instance, colorists could do 10 or 20 books a month. It didn’t matter because it was just flat, simple color. But now it is complex stuff. And when it is complex you can really screw it up. [Doing his best colorist impression] ‘I’m going to airbrush everything. I’m going to paint over things.’ Sadly, there are a lot of people in DC and Marvel, mostly at DC, that is part of the problem that will go into not-so-great coloring.

It is obvious that talent is required and talent has to be recognized and paid accordingly. I couldn’t say if DC pays the colorists less than Marvel. I think DC, in general, will pay more. We have overseas royalties. I think they treat the artist better, but the colorist’s stature is still part of the production department more than on the art team, which was the case for both DC and Marvel. Years ago, Marvel did change that structure. DC I’m sure will, sooner or later, follow into that legal structure with their colorists because it won’t make sense. They are always on the same bracket, but it has been a few years that DC hasn’t complied with that new definition of what the colorist should be. When you have your name on the cover and the little on the royalties, it’s not going to be huge money for anyone, but it is a symbol that you are part of team and that you are responsible for the success or the failing of the product. And we recognize that.

On that subject, when I went out and said that [referring to colorists getting paid], Bleeding Cool, spun the story saying that I’m challenging DC to pay. But it isn’t confrontational at all. I have total faith in DC to do it. If anybody needs to take a breath and play ball it is the writer and the artist. That world is a pie. DC allows a piece of the cover price to be split between the art team. I am asking to revisit the pie. Let’s take a bit of my money, of the writer’s money, and the inker’s money, and let’s share that with the colorist so he is part of our team. The challenge might be to get some of the writers and artists to give. It’s more the art team that I challenge to recognize the colorists.

HC: So speaking of colorists, are there any who you specifically love and would really like to work with?

YP: I’m working with Nathan Fairbairn for… He’s my man. We have been working together for a long time. He was working with me, and Chris Burnham, on Batman Inc. We work together because of our friendship, because we have been working together for a long time and because I trust him totally. We have a good working relationship of respect. He brought forward that it’s not so cool [colorists not being paid]. Especially, Wonder Woman: Earth One has a long shelf life. Who knows how much it is going to sell? It wasn’t so fun for him to come aboard on this and not get any piece of it. In part, it was for him that I came forward saying that we should change. I had a hard time to convince him to stay on Wonder Woman. ‘I need you! I don’t want to go onto 120 pages with someone I don’t know.’ It’s very intimate. My artwork is super intimate. I spend so much time and it is very personal. And you are inviting other people in your bed to share this thing with you, you don’t want someone that you don’t trust or that you don’t know who will screw this stuff up. When Nathan was not sure, I had two other options: Dave Stewart, who is absolutely a miracle, probably the best colorist there is, and Laura Martin. Laura is also an absolute magnificent colorist. I’m glad that we ended up working out something with Nathan for this. As I do a page, I feel confident that my man has my back if something goes wrong, and if he is there, the page is going to look good. He boosts my confidence.

HC: Perhaps your most notable signature your crazy panel layouts and how you split up the panels with different elements of the story. What was your inspiration to do this?

YP: It started a little bit before Swamp Thing. I did an issue of Wolverine: Weapon X called “Insane in the Brain” by Jason Aaron. The story goes that Wolverine is trapped in this asylum and he is getting pushed towards madness by this evil guy. Every panel in that book is crooked. It doesn’t look like it if you look at the book, but none of the corners align. Everything is slightly off balance. As you get crazier and crazier, the stuff gets more crooked. There are a few pages where he snaps out of it and he comes to his senses, and then everything is super straight. It is super-subtle. I’m pretty sure nobody really saw that, but they might feel it on the subconscious level.

WOLVERINE DOES THIS LOOK CRAZY

When I do crazy stuff, it is for storytelling purposes. In Swamp Thing, the first script came in from Scott [Snyder], a great script, but pretty down to earth. It was a 10-page script and a guy talking. To me, when I thought about Swamp Thing, I thought of an Alan Moore crazy, wild thing. In my own relationship to Swamp Thing through the years, I discovered, my first artistic love was Berni Wrightson on Swamp Thing. And then I discovered my first love in writing was Alan Moore on Swamp Thing. And then I got to do Swamp Thing. For me it was something personal. It was like coming back home, almost like a full circle. To me, that book had to reflect my past, the past guys who were on Swamp Thing, and my own relationship to comics. I had to put their name in there and also part of their style. The script was very down to earth. So I figured that maybe just the panel layout could be enough to give you a sense that this is not going to be like other comics, it would be pushing forward in trying things in terms of story telling. So I made a code for everything that happened in that story. If the Green is acting on reality, if the Rot is acting on reality, if you are in the Green… When Abigail is there, the panels are not straight. They are more angular because she is more hard edge, now. All sorts of details like that. You can combine, or you can dial down the fact. But they are always aligned with what is happening in the story. It didn’t take that much time that every single thing in Swamp Thing was bizarre, so every single panel was bizarre. You give what you got. It was really freeing.

At first, I did that by doing something different to reflect what Swamp Thing should be. But I wasn’t sure if people would buy it at all. Maybe it was too confusing. There are things that are challenging. But people absolutely loved it. After 2 years, as I am doing my layout for Wonder Woman, I can’t do straight borders. It isn’t the same set of codes, because what I did on Swamp Thing was for Swamp Thing. It is harder to plan with Grant [Morrison] because [Wonder Woman: Earth One] is a long story.  It is hard to see it in its entirety because I don’t have the script for the whole story. It’s hard to plan the element of design. But I try to do other things that I feel are cool.

HC: Your resume is full of work with fantastic writers, even before the New52. Are there any writers who you have worked with at your days with Marvel that you would like to reconnect with?

YP: When I worked with Jason Aaron, that was the absolute best. I’m talking to you Jason! That script was so intelligent. I had fun with Matt Fraction, too. I was lucky enough to do Uncanny X-Men, which was a self-contained story, so I really made that mine. It was very packed with emotion. There were impossibly deep emotional moments. In comics, you can end up having people fighting for 3 or 4 pages. I don’t care for violence; I don’t find it exciting. What I find exciting is these impossible emotions. In that issue of Uncanny X-Men, Dr. Nemesis goes back in the past. He has to meet his mother and father then sees his father dying. His mother is dying, too, but she pregnant, too. So he delivers himself out of his dying mother. He is always pristine white; he is like Mr. Perfect. But the last few pages, he is coming out of his mom’s bedroom with himself in his arms, his coat is full of blood. What are these moments? They are so intense. They give you goose bumps. Swamp Thing was full of those moments, too. There are huge sacrifices. It’s a love story. But it was crazy and weird at the same time with profound moments. I do comics for those moments.

dr nemesis

HC: Let’s talk about Wonder Woman. How does it differ from the monthly series?

YP: First of all, it’s Earth One. So, you know the other Earth One’s, it’s kind of like Marvel’s Ultimates. There are no rules. You can reinvent stuff. Archetypes and elements can come back because they are expected by readers. Because of that, you can play with those. We have free-reign to do whatever we want. Outside of continuity we can do anything. Wonder Woman somehow has a hard time getting a movie for herself or attention beyond the T-shirts and lunch boxes and figurines; to get her to mainstream solo status like she was in the 70’s was very hard. You can do that with Batman or Superman, but not Wonder Woman. People were like, ‘You should do the regular series! She needs help now.’ I love Azzarello’s work. I think it is great. I don’t think she needs that much help in the New52. All the usual revolutions, the big changes for the characters, like Batman for instance, The Dark Knight Returns was not part of the continuity. It was a futuristic story, like an Elseworld. I don’t think Elseworlds existed in the time of Frank Miller. But that thing was so strong, it defined what Batman was. He is now the injured vengeance-ridden kid. Same for Kingdom Come that really rebalanced everything with the DC Universe. If you look at all the films of Marvel, it is not the Thor of the regular series, but it is the Ultimates. It is the Mark Millar work that makes it to the screen. But then again, these alternate stories were so efficient and make so much sense because they have the liberty to redefine what they are in the context of today. Now, even the regular books, which are not the Ultimates, are tainted with the stories of The Avengers, stories of Aaron, and they have all been Ultimate-ized. You almost can’t tell them apart anymore. It is a revolution for a character. Try it outside of the box, and if it is good enough, the box will absorb it.

HC: How does drawing for a script oriented like Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing differ from a writer like Grant Morrison?

YP: It is hard to tell, because I am really proactive as an artist. I’ll take a lot of liberty. I consider my domain to be more than drawing what they ask. I am going to claim some land, for creation purposes. In the case of Scott, at first I had a full script. OK, we are going to do concept drawing – like the panel borders. My job was to tell the story but also push my own graphic agenda. In the case of Grant, Grant will give you a script with very basic dialogue. He will think about the big chunk of concept and all the craziness. Sometimes he locks attention to the little detail. ‘In this scene, these guys need to walk to one place or another,’ just the physicality of the mundane story telling aspect. And you will give this to your artist to make it make sense. You need to trust your artist and to give them some rope. I figure that is why he is always working with the same 5 or 6 guys because he trusts us to bring the kind of script he is giving us to a place where he is satisfied on which he can do the last pass before printing. It is a trusting, touching moment that he gives me so much room. You have to trust him too to bring that ship to the port at the end, because sometimes I’m sending pages and I’m not exactly sure where it is going to land. I trust him the way he trusts me. Because he works with the art finished, he adapts himself to what he gets. In my case, he never asks for redrawing. If I make a decision to fix something that I feel will work better, he doesn’t mind. It is always a work in progress until the last minute. He is always able to react to the art and be creative. As I do a page, I know Grant will make something out of it.

HC: Your first monthly gig was Wonder Woman. The coolest thing I remember about it was the armor with the eagle head.

YP: I did not invent that costume.

HC: I thought I had seen an earlier armor version but not one with the American flag and the eagle helmet.

YP: It’s been a while. I know that in that run of Wonder Woman, I did invent the Fortress of Solitude with the huge flying coliseum with animals in there and armor galleries. It was the new Invisible Plane, because that thing could turn invisible also. I remember designing that. Maybe I updated the armor, but I wonder if it wasn’t Adam Hughes who did it for the cover. Or maybe it’s a spin on an Alex Ross design. It’s funny that today I get to do Wonder Woman again after all these years in probably the most different context possible. Back then, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying to learn in front of everyone. A lot of those pages are like [he groans]. The idea was just to get the stuff done on time. That was the challenge of the day. Learning the craft. Getting my stuff done on time. There are a lot of pages in there that I am not proud of. But I was unknown, so that was the deal. Now I have the chance to represent the character, but with no deadline, and prestige format, with a massive writer. Now I know exactly what I am supposed to me. I am fully armed and geared for the process. I am going to redeem myself.

HC: DC Collectibles is releasing a Wonder Woman Art of War statue in the image of your Wonder Woman in October. Did you have a hand in the 3D design for that?

YP: Yeah, I did the design. So, I did the turnaround. Funny thing, though – that costume that I designed for Wonder Woman, not to spoil any of the story itself, but she came to the island with that design from the man’s world. Most of the story is a flashback from before that where she doesn’t wear that. I don’t know how that is going to play out. There are still a few pages to come that I have to draw still. It might very well turn out that the design for the statue is like two pages worth of what is going on in that book. She actually wears another costume. I designed that a long time ago, way before I had a decent chunk of script. If I had to redesign it again, I might have used the version I’m using in the book, which is a little different. But yeah, I did the turnaround. That was my first statue. I had no idea how to do it.

yanick statue

HC: It’s cool to see that you actually had a hand in designing.

YP: Because it is a statue, they ask the artist ‘Can you figure out a pose? Can you figure out a design?’ Action figures [are different]. They did a huge Swamp Thing with the wings. It is a massive toy. They sent me a box of those that made me pretty happy. But that, I had nothing to do with. All the design is obviously mine. There is a page in Issue #8 when he is coming down at the Rot with the wings. It is a massive toy. It is bigger than everyone. It is part of the New52 set of toys. I don’t know the scale, but Swamp Thing is just a monster so he goes in the massive monster box.

Swamp Thing Wings

HC: I know everyone is asking you when the book is coming out. Can we assume that since the Wonder Woman statue is coming out in October, there might be something around the corner?

YP: No. I haven’t done all the pages. I have good chunks of stuff to do. I feel like October might come a bit too soon. Maybe DC’s promotional department might want to gather a bunch of Earth One’s together for a big event. I know Gary [Frank] has another Batman [Earth One] going and there’s another Superman going. I think it is in their ballpark. They will find a way to sell that thing at an appropriate moment. I have a feeling that it might be at the very beginning of 2015. My goal is to finish it this year. I have been on it too long. I over-think. Working with a flexible deadline, I am doing my best. At the end of the day, the extra perfection that I have managed to put in there is the one that takes the most time. Without it, I would have totally done the book super fast and nobody would recognize there is a little…  If I would just give it up, nobody would care, except for me. I could make that book super fast. That’s the problem with a long deadline, I want to do the best and then it takes even more time.

HC: Working on a non-monthly book, it must allow for a more balanced lifestyle. We were wondering what hobbies you have on the side?

YP: I do travel a lot. I do a lot of conventions. That’s what I do. I used to do a lot of music. I write music and record it. There is some stuff online.

HC: I actually fell asleep to the Swamp Thing soundtrack last night.

YP: The Swamp Thing is a more orchestral film soundtrack. When I write serious stuff it’s mostly string quartets. But I’ve been writing a long time. With convention schedules, you travel and then come home and then I’m exhausted. Then I have to do two or three pages. It’s just a lot. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll say yes to too many people in terms of shows this year. But I will survive and I will take it as a warning.

HC: How did you get into writing music?

YP: It was a hobby when I was a kid, reading and writing music. In my teens I would write stuff. The things I really enjoy, there is no market. Classical or Baroque music – nobody cares for that. I went into Biology first and then I had a reality check and figured it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I considered Music for about an hour and half and then I went into comics instead. I may have ended up doing a movie score or having an orchestra. But there are so many good guys in movie scores; it’s such a huge market. I didn’t want to do jingles for advertising. I figure I will keep my music as pure as I want with no compromise. I’ll do my own thing for myself. I don’t need the public for that. I’ve posted it online because people have said, ‘You should post it online. It’s funny.’ But it’s for me really. And with the comic aspect, I’ll play ball a little bit more. And I did at first. Now I’m pickier with what I want. And maybe because I can do whatever I want in comics, I don’t feel the need to write music anymore.

HC: You have worked on a lot of established franchises. We wanted to know if you had any interest in doing something creator owned for an independent publisher or are you with DC forever?

YP: Honestly, I am looking for a creator owned in a very serious way. As I look at the industry now, DC and Marvel, every book you do, you can rest assured that the next book, even though you do your best the book is going to sell less. They are never going to sell more unless you kill a character or you put Jim Lee in the book. Every book will sell less than the one before. That trend has been going on with every single book of DC and Marvel for the past 5 or 10 years. The only places where I actually see growth is in the independent. Granted they start lower, so they have room to go up, but they do. They offer something different, something fresh. A few years ago when people would come in with a portfolio who were prime for DC, I would push them to try Image or do something independent and then come back to DC with that name. Now I am seeing the opposite. Get to DC or Marvel and make a name for yourself, then go to Image and cash in. Do something you own. From that point of view, if I would do something at Image and sell five times less, but do more money and do whatever I want. I don’t have anything against spandex and superheroes. I’ve done it a lot and enjoyed it as a kid. But it is a limited a genre. After a while you have told the story you wanted to tell. Spandex guy punching another spandex guy. I have done all the angles. I want to tell other kinds of stories. In other media, in movies or books, you get all different stories and they sell to different markets. But comics have been trapped into one mainstream, one little type of fiction. It makes no sense. But now Horror is coming again, I may not want to do pure Horror stuff.  I won’t tell what I am looking into because I am not sure myself. I think the typing is good with miracles like The Walking Dead. Which is a fluke. You can’t say, ‘[In his best American accent] Oh! I’m just gonna do The Walking Dead. That seems like a profitable business plan.’ It’s a fluke! It’s something weird. But what happened is that people in the mainstream, and when I say mainstream, it’s not comic mainstream. This is not mainstream. This is a little bubble of weird geeks. The true world realizes that The Walking Dead came from a book. They enter into a comic book store with no geek preconception about qualities of DC and Marvel and the rest are amateurs. They don’t care for that. They’ll look and maybe by Chew or Saga. The readership has expanded. That is why The Walking Dead and some of these independent books are getting good numbers because it is fresh readership. It is fresh blood. It is people from the outside world coming and seeing that we are doing something that kind of makes sense.

HC: Our wrap up question is, what can fans except to see you in soon and where is the best place to reach you?

YP: I’ll be Charlotte this coming weekend. I’ll probably do New York. I will be in Portland this year, too. I will be in Malta for the Italian people who may read this. I’ll be in Argentina. There is a show in Montreal. I’ll drop by there and say hello. I am fairly easy to reach over Twitter and Facebook. I am pretty well-versed in the Web 2.0. [Also check out his DeviantArt page to see some of his beautiful commissions!]

 

Paquette Interview 1

 

 

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interview – Georges Jeanty

This weekend at Denver Comic Con 2014, Hush Comics interviewed the wonderful artist Georges Jeanty, famous for his work on Buffy Season 8 and 9, as well as his current stint on Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.  He had a lot to say about his past, present, and future, including his time with Joss, what he really thinks about Buffy hook-ups, and whether or not Wonder Woman is in his future.

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles

Hush Comics: What was it about comics that sucked you in?

Georges Jeanty: I guess when you’re a kid, you really don’t know anything else.  Maybe now you do with video games and all, but that really didn’t exist.  Maybe Pong existed when I was a kid.  It was just the love of stories, reading, and things like that.  I was a very weird child.  I liked to read when I was younger.  And, comics just grabbed me.  And it grabbed me in a way that it just never let me go.  And then when you get older, you realize, ‘Hey, I can draw!” And then you go, ‘Hey, I’m actually kind of good.  Hey, look I can do this.”  So it was sort of a natural, evolutionary process.

HC: Currently, you are working on the Serenity comic, and I know you were a fan of the show Firefly, when it was on the air, so can you tell me a bit about what made you love the story?

GJ: Love the story that I was doing or the show?

HC: Both.

GJ: Well it’s a show that really had potential and obviously cut down before its prime, type of thing.  So, it’s very sad.  The vindication, of course, is that it got a movie and it goes on from there.  The comics, honestly, it’s all because of Joss Whedon.  I firmly believe that if Joss Whedon didn’t like comics, it would not be a comic book, per se.  Buffy probably would have been, because I believe Buffy is co-owned by FOX, but Joss has Firefly and had he never really been interested in the medium, there probably wouldn’t be a Firefly comic book.  The story is great because it’s the first one that really is post film and it takes place after and you find out what happens to everybody and where they went after the film.  So that’s the really cool part about it.  As a fan, I couldn’t wait to read the scripts when I was getting those.

HC: Awesome!  I am a huge fan, too.  When you were younger, I have heard that you wanted to be an actor.  Who were your inspirations and did you ever act in anything?

GJ: Man, when I was younger, Robin Williams was Mork in Mork and Mindy.  I have always been more attracted to comedy and the people who make you laugh.  It is sort of a philosophical thing.  You never forget the person who makes you laugh.  Somebody can you make you cry, somebody can make you mad, somebody can you give you all those other emotions, but it’s the people, you may not even remember their names, but the people that make you laugh.  I did a little bit in high school, acting, and in college, and church plays here and there, but I quickly realized I was a better artist than I was an actor.   Or that it would probably pay better for me sooner than later.

HC: So at one point you were an artist with a collaborative Gaijin Studios.  What did you do there and how did being with them get you the big gigs that you ended up with?

GJ: Gaijin Studios was primarily just a studio with a bunch of artists. We didn’t necessarily produce anything.  We all worked in the same area as a sort of cohabitation.  We all had our cubicles or rooms as it were.  The great thing about that was a lot of the guys there had been in the business a little longer than I had, and had a reputation that when I was looking for work I could say, ‘Yeah, I’m part of this group called Gaijin,’ and it was part of this swag of being part of that studio that people were like, ‘Oh! Interesting.  I know the studio.  I don’t know you, but if you’re part of that studio, you must pretty good. ‘  So that probably got me Bishop: The Last X-Man years and years ago, and that probably got me that gig.

HC: Speaking of Bishop, Days of Future Past just came out and as a kid I always connected with the animated version of the story.  So how does it feel to have your version of Bishop on the big screen?

GJ: It was the version that I did.  It wasn’t technically my version because that concept was already done when I came to the book.  I evolved in it.  I did about 15 issues of Bishop, so it sort of evolved into whatever version it was.  It was really cool.  I have no criticism, per se, but, of course, you’re looking at something and thinking, ‘Yeah, he would have been a little bit bulkier,’ or ‘He would have been a little more of this.’ But just to see the character that you did, and essentially went into obscurity, its nicely vindicated.  Granted he didn’t have a lot of screen time.  Funny enough, if you didn’t now who he was, you’re going, ‘What? What’s he doing?’  Bishop could absorb power and redirect it. That was his mutant power.  But they never actually explain that in the movie.  So, you’re kind of like, ‘Ok, I guess he can shoot stuff out of his hands. Cool.’

HC: Can you tell me a little bit about how you were able to work with John Ridley on The American Way?

GJ: John Ridley, who has just blown up, totally. Actually coming out next he has got a musical biography of Jimi Hendrix coming later this year.

HC: With Andre 3000?

GJ: With Andre 3000.  Yeah he [John Ridley] was a great guy.  Again, another guy who just loved comics.  He did a couple of things with Wildstorm.  He wrote Authority and then something else, a short story.   And then he pitched this creator owned gig and they brought me on after the fact to say, ‘Hey, he would love to collaborate with you.’  I created the look of the characters with a description that he had done.  He said essentially, ‘You being apart of this, I know there aren’t any big stars or Superman, Batman, any of those characters are not in here, but what I can offer you is a piece of this particular pie should it ever go anywhere.  This was 8 or 9 years ago, where you going, ‘Oh, whatever.  Cool.’  And the story was so good.  I think at the time, I was pegged to do The Flash.  So I was geared towards something that was more established and more known.  After I read his script I was going ‘Oh my God.  This is so good.  If I didn’t draw this, this is something I would want to pick up and read.’  And finally Ben Abernathy, the editor, at Wildstorm at that title at the time was really selling it.  Through Ben’s generosity, I said, ‘Sounds like these would be really cool people to work with.’  When you’re looking at a project like that, originally it was 10 issues and it ended up being 8 issues, but you’re going, ‘I’m going to be with these guys for 8 months.’  That’s a relationship where you’re like, ‘If I don’t like you now, I’m really not going to like you in 8 months.  But if you seem cool, hopefully there is hope that we will really get along.’  John and I got along great.  I mean it was a lot of back and forth.  We called each other a lot and talked about it.  He loved the comic medium.  He really loved the idea that he was saying something about the Civil Rights Movement and all that stuff.  It is probably one of the things I am most proud of in this business.

HC: That says a lot.  After you were done working on The American Way, you were contacted to work on Buffy.  Up that point you hadn’t seen the series yet, but piggybacking off of my Firefly question, what is it about the Buffy story that you love, not only the show, but what you did?

GJ: Uh, that it was Joss Whedon.  I didn’t even read the script.  I didn’t know what the script was, but they said, ‘Well Joss Whedon’s going to be writing the first arc.  Would you be interested?’  I’m like, ‘Yeah.  Sure.’  And I hadn’t really watched Buffy.  I knew Buffy through pop culture, but I had never really absorbed her, and I really quickly caught up when I did get the gig.  Joss was really generous.  I knew who he was, and just the fact that he was giving this to me, this guy who really had no reputation.  I mean, I had done books, but whatever.  He had seen my work, liked it, and wanted me.  I was like ‘Yeah, you’re Joss Whedon.  Cool.’ [Now referring to Joss] ‘No, no, dude, here’s my phone number.  Call me if you need anything, or if you have questions about his or that.’  This was the first time Joss was actually doing a Buffy comic book which was very monumental.   Buffy had been printed up until then for years, but he had never actually done anything.  He did a little something in the Tales of the Vampire and the Tales of the Slayer, but never on Buffy directly.  I quickly realized how much of a big deal this was.  I jumped in on that strength, not really knowing the character.

HC: I know that you didn’t watch it before hand, and I have heard you watched it out of order.  What order did you watch it in?

GJ: I did.  I started with season 6 and then 7.  I liked it so much, because the sent me season 6 and 7 on DVD, I liked it so much, I went back and watched 1-5 on my own.

HC: And did you watch 6 and 7 again so you felt you had the whole series?

GJ: No.  I sort of watched little bits here and there where I needed to get the characters a little more defined.  No, in my mind when I think of Buffy in the end it’s when she actually dies saving Dawn.  That season 6 two-parter was kind of strange because I’m like, ‘She’s dead? So she’s coming back? And who is this biker gang? And now there is this other Slayer thing? What is this?’  And a big thing that I just never understood was her Slayer strength.  I knew she was a Slayer, but to me that did not automatically denote she was more powerful than everybody.  So, a lot of the first few episodes I saw, I felt bad that this girl is getting beaten up and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is like a masochistic television show. That poor little girl.’  And then when I talked to Joss, because I was doing the comic book… I sort of need details.  You need your stage in order to perform.  You need to know what’s on that stage so you know what you can use.  And with Buffy, I told Joss, ‘Well she’s strong.  Ok. I get that, but how strong?  Is she Superman strong?‘  And he’s like, ‘Well, it’s funny.  We’ve never really tested her limit, but in all honesty, think maybe Spider-Man strong, not Superman strong.  But definitely more than Batman strong.’  So that sort of put things in place to me where as an artist I knew how far I could go.  She could probably turn over a car, but she would have a lot of trouble lifting it over her head.  Those little details, which obviously never came to play in the book, but I knew what she could do.

HC:  I have heard season 6 is your favorite season.  Is that still true?

GJ: Yes.  Totally.  I’m all about change.  I totally get it, the people who were with it all the way from the beginning, people love season 3 when Faith comes in, and no one likes season 4 for some reason.  But there were moments like Oz and Willow, and then Tara coming in.  There are moments in every season.  It’s not that any one season is a blanket of awful or great.  There are moments.  But I thought season 6 just said, ‘This is what it was, and now these guys are growing. ‘  Sometimes, you might have a bad year, or you might get fired.  That year is your lowest year, but that doesn’t mean you are any less of a person, but your life has changed.  That year was such a year of change. A lot of people who didn’t like Spike were like, ‘Well, that’s because they hooked up that season and it was awful.’  I appreciated that change and I loved Andrew, Warren and Jonathon coming in.  Those guys were so funny.  It’s obvious the writers were having a great time writing their dialog.  That felt to me like a cool season.

HC: Do you have a moment from season 6, that you are like, ‘That’s the moment’?

GJ: I’m probably supposed to say The Musical.  It’s been a while now and all of has just morphed in to one big Buffy ball.  I couldn’t tell you the specifics of season 6.  I will tell you though, and since Joss was such a big comic book fan, he modeled Willow’s dissension on Jean Grey and Dark Phoenix.  When you watch it having known that, you see that when Willow brings Buffy back and then Giles has that conversation, like, ‘You incompetent idiot.  How could you have done that?’  And she’s like, ‘Maybe you should be a little nicer to me knowing how much I actually did.’  You can see she wasn’t bad there because she didn’t have the black magic obviously, but you can tell there was that seed that was planted and I love that.  And it’s something if you’re a long time you’re like, ‘Cool, this is going somewhere.’  Oh! Ok, I do have a moment.  Probably the best moment, and Joss loves to do this, is when Dark Willow is doing whatever, he [Joss] recreated it in season 8 in the first arc, where Willow is like ‘Nothing can stop me now.’ And then bam!  She gets hit and Giles is like, ‘I’d like to test that theory.’  And that’s the end of the episode, and it’s like, that is the coolest ending ever.  And when Amy the rat comes back and she does it and Willow does the same thing, it’s ‘Oh my God that is so cool.  And I was a part of it.  Cool!’

HC: That is awesome!  How has working under Joss’ direction influenced the way you tell stories through art?

GJ: His story telling is not so much about the script.  I learned a lot more talking to him.  I’m the kind of artist where I get the script, I read it, absorb it, but of course there will be little nuances and I always tell a writer I work with, ‘Do you mind if I call you because I want to get your thoughts.  When you say this person walks into the room upset… Buffy walks into the room upset, that could mean a lot.  Could be upset that she just had a hangnail, or she didn’t get her nails done, or upset that she got really bad news.’  I would usually talk to my writers and ask, ‘What is the context of this?  How upset?  What is their body language?’  I guess that is the actor in me who is coming in and saying, ‘Well, what are they doing that gets them to that point?’ Obviously, if you’re upset, you’re standing in a different way, or you’re looking in a different way.  Your posture is definitely different.  That was one of the things I would talk to Joss about.  There was one time where he was writing a script and he was a little late and I was like, ‘When do you think it’s going to get done?   The editor is on my back because I have to draw it and it takes a whole lot longer to draw. ‘  And he said, ‘Yeah, the only problem I am having with this script is that I don’t know what I am trying to say.’  And that is when it solidified to me that Joss works on theme.  Like the theme of loss or redemption; anything you can put in a theme.  That’s where he says, ‘This is my theme and I am going to try to structure the episode around that theme.  Everybody is going to be affected in some way by that theme.  They may not be the central focus of that theme, but they are going to be affected.’  That to me makes really good story telling because you’re combining everything. Especially in television, since it is a serialized drama, it keeps going on and on, all you really have are themes because there has to be that arc, and usually for that episode, you know that there is something they went through.  That is the biggest thing he taught me, indirectly, just reading his work and listening to the man talk.

HC: If you could draw any scene from a Whedonverse show, what scene would you draw?

GJ: Well, why would I do that?  I will counter that statement, actually.  I did have a conversation with Joss just about this.  I will tell you there is a scene that I would have loved to have drawn that never made it on television but should have.  When we were doing season 8, I hate to give myself credit for this, but I am the Buffy fans, best friend because I was going to bat. When Buffy slept with another woman, I was like, ‘Nuh-Uh! She’s not going to sleep with another woman.  I’m not going to draw that.  You need to justify that to me before I can do that.’  When Giles died, “Nuh-Uh! Giles isn’t dead because I’m not going to draw it.  You have to justify that to me first.’  So I was really going to bat.  I went to Joss at some point and said, ‘Dude, you’ve got Spike coming in season 8.  That’s great, we are finally getting the gang back together.’  But I was like, ‘Joss, you realize, if you think about it, Buffy doesn’t know Spike is alive.  Because he became alive in Angel obviously and there was never that scene where it’s like, ‘Oh my God’ [referring to Buffy].  He [Joss] was like, ‘Yeah but the fans are really…’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, the fans want to know that stuff.  That’s the stuff that they love.’  He said, ‘No, they can probably assume that Andrew told them’ because of “The Girl in Question” in Angel, they both go and see Andrew. ‘They can just assume Buffy found out from him. ‘  I said, ‘It’s a little bit of a cop out, I gotta tell ya.’  In my mind, over the years, I wonder what that scene would be like.  The writer in me, doing Buffy for so many years at that point, I was creating that scene so I could justify it when they did get together and of course subsequently have all these conversations.  In my mind, that is what I feel happened in continuity, although it never actually showed up.

HC: Do you have time to read comics, and if so which ones are you currently reading?

GJ: Yes.  I hate to say this because it probably makes me a bigger geek than I am, but I’m at the comic shop every Wednesday, looking and seeing what’s out.  I’m reading The Uncanny X-Men that Brian Bendis and Stuart Immomen are doing.  And the Miracleman reprints, the Alan Moore stuff.  Comics today are a very different animal, and very rightly so because of the movies.  Now, limited series is a thing.  A continuity book is virtually non-existent, and reading this has really restored my faith in what comics could do because while Alan Moore isn’t reinventing the wheel with his stories that he did back in the ‘80’s, it’s obvious that he is taking the story telling medium, and these were a bunch of 8 page stories that he did that were collected eventually, and with these 8 pages he is just telling the story as it is progressing, but every 8 pages is doing it in a different way.  It is so entertaining.  Miracleman is sort of a British knockoff of Shazam.  Even in that, he plays with that factor, and it is just so good.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Anyone who wants to be a comic writer ought to be reading those Miracleman comics because he is just doing great storytelling.

HC: You drew Buffy for season 8 and 9, will you be making a return in season 10?

GJ: That is a very interesting question.  Well, I did Serenity, which was sort of always the plan.  Yeah, personally feel that Buffy was the girl I came to dance with.  I certainly don’t want to abandon her.  If they ask me back for something, whatever it is, probably not as long as I did before, but I would come back for something special.

HC: Since Serenity will be ending soon, do you know what your work will be in the future?

GJ: I personally finished Serenity a few months ago, because of course you have to do it ahead so they can print it.  But, I’m working on The Future’s End for DC right now, which is their big 52 book, a whole year, every week.  I am doing what I can; I pretty much do a book a month.  So, I’ve done an issue and I’ve got an issue waiting for me, so I will for the foreseeable future be doing that.  And there is some talk of maybe doing some Wonder Woman stuff down the line.  Who knows?  It’s just hearsay right now.  So, we will see!

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interview – Leila del Duca

Leila del Duca, the artist for Image Comics Shutter, was kind enough to allow us this interview. Shutter is a fantastical adventure book and, although it is just three issues in, has already grabbed readers’ attention. It’s the kind of story that comic books were made to be about. The creatures, the action sequences – it all boils down to being a fun and exciting story about even crazy characters and situations. Short of making you buy the book, I’ll just say that the books are just as interesting as Leila is, so we’ll hop right to it!

 

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles

Hush Comics: I keep telling my friends how awesome Shutter is, but it’s hard to explain the story to them. How would you pitch the book to somebody who has never seen anything like it before?

Leila del Duca: It’s a hard book to pitch because it’s so weird and out there and belongs in multiple genres. I usually say it’s about world-famous explorer Kate Kristopher who is thrown back into the adventuring life she tried so hard to leave behind. If I have more time, I stress that the book is about family, who you adopt into your life and how you deal with blood relations you don’t want. And if they still don’t look interested I’m like, “But sir, it’s set in this crazy version of Earth with mythological beings, talking animals, and spacemen!”

holy GD WTSHC: Shutter is a huge accomplishment! How does it feel to have “made it” in the industry?

LD: It feels freaking phenomenal! I love having strangers come up to me and tell me they like my work, which never really happened before. It’s super validating to finally feel this way after working towards this my whole life. I truly hope I continue to “make it” in this industry, because I’m having the best time creating comics for you guys.

HC: You’ve worked with other publishers, but how is Image unique?

LD: Working with Image has been such an educational, uplifting experience thus far, standing by me every step of the way and teaching me how the industry does, and, in many cases, should be run. Their amazing team is professional, timely, encouraging, and excited about what they’re doing. I’ve felt like I’ve joined a sort of family that takes care and looks after each other, and this family produces some of the most unique and enjoyable stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

HC: Although the book is pretty new, it’s been a long time coming for you as an artist. What kinds of projects did you take on to stay afloat as an artist?

LD: I worked on various genres, but mainly sci-fi and fantasy comics. I’ve also done slice of life, superhero, and zombie western stories. As much as I rave about how brilliant and perfect it working on Shutter is, every past project has a warm place in my heart. Without these stepping stones, I never would have made it here and though working on these past projects hasn’t always been a dream, I appreciate the good and bad that came with all of them and the creators I’ve worked with.

HC: On a similar note, which books other than Shutter can we find your work on?

LD: A few years ago, where it kind of started, was ESCAPE FROM TERRA, a libertarians in space web comic. I claim pencil, ink, color, and writing credits depending on when you jump in the story. It’s still online at Big Head Press. Next, I self-published a book of short comics called THE FOX WITCH AND OTHER TALES. I also art directed two volumes of the Denver-based literary and arts series, CELLAR DOOR. More recently, I did a zombie western with Fried Comics, DEADSKINS, which is still slowly being released online on their website. Lastly, I’m still finishing up the fourth and last issue of THE PANTHEON PROJECT, written by Erik Taylor, soon to be printed with Action Lab at the end of this year.

Photo taken from The Pantheon Project's Facebook page
Photo taken from The Pantheon Project‘s Facebook page

HC: How do you get the most out of the comic book scene in Denver as a professional?

LD: By being social, showing up to events, making friends, connection with other professionals. So much of comics is just networking.

HC: Joe Keatinge is known for his crazy imagination. How does his creativity fuel yours?

LD: In probably every way… His unbelievable imagination and ideas inspire me to create the best, most imaginative images I can. We’ve said a couple times that our mutual desire to impress one another is in large part what drives this comic.

HC: For being a new artist, you get a ton of gorgeous, full-page spreads. Is that something Keatinge pushes for, or is that something you present to him?

LD: Joe definitely is the one with all the great double page spreads, and 16 and 9 panel grid page ideas. He leaves other page layout stuff to me, but he really knows what needs a full page, what sequence needs a different type of panel layout, etc. He knows how to pace a story and what’s important to emphasize on a page.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.04.41 PM

HC: The various animals in Shutter are a huge selling point for me: foxes riding triceratops, lions in mobster suits, you know – the usual. Is there something that draws you to anthropomorphic characters over humans?

LD: I wouldn’t say I prefer them to humans, but I equally enjoy them just as much. I love giving characters personalities and it’s a different kind of challenge when I have to do that with an anthro character. Also, for the record, I never told Joe that I wanted to draw anthropomorphic characters, I just said I wanted to draw anything and everything and that’s what he gave me, and I’m super happy he did because they’re all a blast!

HC: Which of these characters around Kate is your favorite and can you give us a hint at any more of the insanity coming up?

LD: Awe man, I’d have to say Ekland is my favorite. She’s so fun to draw and I love her personality, her pointy samurai gear, her mohawk–everything! As for the insanity coming up, no spoilers for you! I think I already leaked some crazy things that happen in issue 4 to the internet so I don’t want to give any more away. But rest assured…there is a lot more insanity. Shutter wouldn’t be Shutter without it.

ekland

HC: Where is the best place for fans to connect with you?

LD: Probably Twitter, @leiladelduca, or DeviantArt, leilasedai.deviantart.com. Or the Shutter letters column email, shuttercomics@gmail.com.

 

The artwork posted belongs to Leila del Duca and Image Comics.

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interview- Lewis Brown

Hush Comics and Colorado local artist Lewis Brown were meant to meet.  Lewis has attended many of the same events we have attended in the last year.  We have watched his art grow in the last few months, which has been amazing to see.  We got the chance to interview him before this year’s Denver Comic Con.  You can find him at All C’s Collectibles booth working on charitable art for Aurora Rise, as well as selling prints.

Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 articles

 

Hush Comics: What is your origin story?

Lewis Brown: I grew up the son of a Trekkie, I and would stare at covers of Sci-Fi books my mom read.  So Sci-Fi is in my blood. My father was rumored to have the ability to draw.  Those traits started to show in me at an early age.  I had the need to draw.  I would also create complex Lego battles. I have worked at being a comic artist since 5th grade. I have been studying anatomy since then just to develop the skills to create the stuff in my head.

HC: Where are you from?

LB: Denver, Colorado

HC:  How did you get into comics?

LB: My mom took me to a 7-11.  She said I could choose between a comic or a ball of candy.  I chose the comic.

HC: What was the first comic you read?

LB: The Daredevil/ Captain America crossover in the 1980’s.   I have no recall of what the story was about I just remember the anatomy and details of the art.

HC: Who are your comic book inspirations?

LB: Jim Lee, Stjepan Sejic, Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner, Joe Mad, and Greg Capullo.

HC: What was the moment you realized that you wanted to be a professional in this business?

LB: I think I was nine or a little younger.   Just reading comics and watching morning cartoons like Super Friends.
Then seeing my mom come home tired and depressed from her day job. I realized that comic animation and art in general would be my happiness to get me through the formalities of life.

HC: What are your long-term goals in the industry?

LB: I want to be like Stan Lee.  I want to create my own universe and give new entertainment ideas for movies, games, etc.

Lewis Brown art
Sinett and the Silent Rock by Lewis Brown.

HC: What is your dream job?

LB: In the long term, I want to produce a movie.  In the short term, I want to start my own comic company.  I have a big story I’ve been working on for about seven years plan on releasing the first issue in 2015.

HC: What do you think are the best comic books/stories out right now?

LB: I really like Top Cow Universes like Artifacts and Darkness and Batman Death of the Family.

HC: How well-connected do you feel to the Denver comic community?

LB:  I feel pretty well connected, like, I’m teaming up with All C’s Comics and the Aurora Rise Century 16 fundraiser at Denver Comic Con to do some free sketches.  I plan on doing a book release/signing at All C’s in a month or so.  I’m actually trying to merge comic geek with hip-hop. I mostly fall into the hip-hop, skater, hipster type crowd I guess.  Shout out to Hush Comics, Geek Street Society, Drink and Draw groups, and any other groups starting their own movements.  I’ve done DCC for 3 years now so things have definitely developed over time.

HC: Where can the masses see your work?

LB: Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.  You can find me as Lewis Brown.  I am on Instagram and coming soon I will have a Deviant Art.   Look for me at the All C’s booth or the Aurora Rise table.

The artwork posted belongs to Lewis Brown.

 

Denver Comic Con 2014 Interview – Gerry Mulowayi

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Hush Comics was lucky enough to meet Colorado artist Gerry Mulowayi at this years ComicFest.  He was happy to oblige us with an interview just before this year’s Denver Comic Con.  You can meet him in Artist’s Alley this weekend, and even pick up some of his work!

Gerry M.

Hush Comics: What is your origin story?

Gerry Mulowayi: My origins start at the age of 7. I had accompanied my mother to get her hair done at a friend’s house. Once there, she started a conversation with her friends, something which I had no interest in, so I went inside the house to watch some cartoons. Sitting right in front of television set was another kid; he was a little older than me. Surrounding him were tons of pages and comics, and he asked me to sit down and draw with him. I told him I didn’t know how, so he grabbed some tracing page and showed me how it worked. I grabbed a comic called Lucky Lucke (a French Cowboy) and traced its cover, and I remember the feeling I had after that. It felt like a switch had been pulled.

HC: That is awesome!  Where are you from?

GM: I come from the African nation of Zaire, which was its name at the time. Now you might know it has the Democratic Republic of Congo.

HC:  How did you get into comics?

GM:  I was a fan of comics from a young age, and I had the skill.  But it wasn’t until I met my counselor in 5thgrade that I really started to push for it. She’s the one who got me hooked.

HC: What was the first comic you read?

GM: The first comic was Peter Parker Spiderman #88. When I first came to the States I had some difficulties to say the least. So I started seeing a counselor and she helped me get adjusted. She would copy some pages from a comic book and request a weekly report from my teachers on how I was doing in my classes. If all was good, I would get those pages at the end of the week. If not, then I wouldn’t get those pages.

Zulu Africanis by Gerry Mulowayi.
Zulu Africanis by Gerry Mulowayi.

HC: Who are your comic book inspirations?

GM: I’ve had many, but the strongest ones would have be Stan Lee, Michael Turner, J.Scott Campbell, Dwayne McDuffie, Carlos Meglia, Hergé, Jack Kirby, and Bruce Timm

HC: What was the moment you realized that you wanted to a professional in this business?

GM: I didn’t like the job I was doing and I felt like I was wasting my skill. So one day a friend of mine wrote my name in a craft show application. So I showed up at the event and people bought my art and I made some money that day. So that’s kind of what started it all.

HC: That is really inspiring for all up and comers.  What are your long-term goals in the industry?

GM: I’d like to teach and show other people how I did it, and encourage them to do so if they like to. The world of comics can always use more perspectives and ideas.

HC: What is your dream job?

GM: My dream job would be to become a cover Graphic Illustrator; this job would allow me to work on a wide range of projects and designs. But more importantly it’s a job that I could put my heart in and work at my own pace.

Knightfall by Gerry Mulowayi.
Knightfall by Gerry Mulowayi.

HC: What do you think are the best comic books/stories out right now?

GM: The All New X-Men is one book I’ve been following.  It just finished the trial of Jean Grey and that was pretty good. Beyond that I’d say Superior Spider-Man was a really interesting take on the character that I really enjoyed.

HC: We agree!  How well-connected do you feel to the Denver comic community?

GM: I’d say I’m getting there, I feel that in these last couple of years with the Comic Con and Starfest my name is starting to get out there.

HC: Where can the masses see your work?

GM: You can see my work on Facebook at The Art of Gerry Mulowayi, on DeviantArt under the name blaneblue and on Amazon.com I’ve got an art book available also under my name. I’ll be at this year Denver Comic Con table F38!

all art is property of Gerry Mulowayi.