Quick Fire round 2

May 4, 2010

Here are a collection of the questions I got.  I got some from a student who wanted to do an interview and had some great questions.

1. Which is the most important part of a comic, the art or the story?
The story is the most important part.  The story is the reason for the art, just like the air is the most important part of being on a plane.

2. If you could fight any artist who would it be?
I would fight Toth.  I love his stuff and I appreciate that he’s a legend and all, but we was also a pill.  I hear insane Toth stories now and then and just for once I’d like to go, “yeah I beat the shit out of that dude for no reason at all”.

3. If you and Dustin got into a fight, who would win?
Dustin’s a dad, so he’s got what I call “angry dad muscle”—plus he’s got a gang of Asian friends who have his back.  That dude also used to be a criminal, so my money is on him.

4. Do you have a specific genre or type that you particularly enjoy exploring through your artwork?
I love sci-fi, adventure, crime and historical genres the most I think, but only if they’re done correctly.  I try to be careful about having favorites because—when done properly—anything can be great so no pitch should be discounted.  The most important thing for me is for the story to have a point, a moral, or a comment on the human condition.  It’s hard because most readers don’t buy mainstream books for this reason.

5. When you are drawing comics do you generally know how you want a panel (or a sequence or a page) to look, or do you rework it several times?
I generally do, yes.  Sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes not.  With the nature of tight deadlines, there isn’t a lot of time to mess around with storytelling or the design of panels and pages.  For me, storytelling consists of quick decisions throughout the process in a shoot-from-the-hip mentality (with clarity being the most important thing).  A lot of decisions I make don’t end up working, but I feel most of them do.  It’s funny to me when people say, “so-and-so is a genius with his storytelling”.  That phrase should be altered to, “so-and-so is a capable storyteller considering his deadlines”.  If that so-and-so has a week per page then you’d be more likely to see REAL genius, because there are a hundred different ways to draw a page but mostly we end up seeing so-and-so’s quickest.

6. Are there any continuous ideas, feelings or themes you want to express or communicate through your artwork or stories?
The style I’ve settled on conveys a couple things pretty well I think: mood, darkness, humor, movement, energy, iconography and storytelling.  The things I don’t convey well are photo-realism, superheroes, sex, detail or anything over the top.  But I’m all right with this because I don’t care about that stuff as much.  I think mainly the thing I want to communicate most is clarity and an attempt to be a little old fashioned about my approach.

7. What is the hardest part, for you, about being an artist in comics?
The hardest part for me is existing in an industry that mainly wants the regurgitation of superheroes as opposed to new stories.  My peeves trickle down from there.  

8. What artists do you like?
There are a ton of artists I like, but there’s a shorter list of artists whom I find inspirational—the ones that make me want to draw better.  Usually these are guys who are looking at art in a different way and are going against the grain in small ways.  When it comes to their stuff, I’m not just a fan but a student.  Here’s the short list of people that I draw most of my influence from:

Bill Watterson: An obvious one.  Not only do I love his writing and drawing but also how   
much of a curmudgeon he is.  

Jorge Zaffino:  Doesn’t have a huge portfolio but he’s done things for Conan, Batman and  
two that are still available through IDW, Winterworld and Seven Block.  I’ve studied his
sloppy lines and his blacks for years now and still haven’t figured out his formula.

Sergio Toppi:  He’s more of an illustrator than a storyteller, but Toppi shows me that
doodles and scratches still count as art.  His stuff looks like a drug-induced nightmare—
he’s got vision with a capital V.

Jamie Hewlett:  He did Tank Girl back in the day, but you may know him as the Gorillaz
artist.  He is the creator of the “father style” to a lot of other guys I also like.

Chris Brunner:  Check out his stuff on a trade for Image called The Ride.  He’s got a
Hewlett outlook but I feel he’s made it his own.

Andrew Robinson:  Also working from a Hewlett style, but also making it his own.  Check out
his early Dusty Star work—some of the best stuff in comics in my opinion.

Ashley Wood:  Also working from a Hewlett style, but far removed at this point with his  
painting and frantic line work.  Wood shows me what energy means on a page.

Zach Howard:  He’s one of my best friends and my partner on Outer Orbit.  Spending time  
with Zach made me analyze art in a way people rarely do.  And he’s super intense about it
and gets angry easily—someone I’m guilty of too I guess.

Dan Panosian:  This dude is scary.  I think he thinks I’m blowing smoke up his ass when
we’re drinking, but I mean every word of it.

Goran Parlov:  If I could switch styles with someone it would be Goran.

Eric Canete:  He’s one of the best on the planet.  Period.

Dustin Nguyen:  Dustin’s my guru for art, work ethic, and advice in general.  Not to say
the other guys aren’t, but I just talk to him more often.

Tomm Coker:  Another guy whose fingers should be broken.

Others include Johnson, Mignola, Ware, Albuquerque, Pope, Leon, Edwards, Leonardi, Toth, Mead, Peak and a thousand other illustrators from the 50s and 60s that I’m forgetting.

9. Do you ever worry about DC or someone taking offense to the things you talk about?
Yes.  People at DC read some of this stuff and I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me.  But I think we all have a responsibility to be honest (but fair).

10. What is your process like from when you read the script to when you actually sit down to draw?
That’s tough to answer.  I guess I start by asking questions.  What’s the story really about?  What do I have to draw?  What do I want to draw?  What are people expecting?  And what can I get away with?  For me it’s about being original, so I’ll spend time analyzing what I can do that’s different than what people have seen before.  It’s also important for me to form a clear vision—I find that real VISION is the link between all the artists I mentioned above.

11. Why did you draw the Wolverine ABCs?
I needed something to post while working on Joe the Barbarian.  DC didn’t want me posting pages and I was afraid of being ignored.  Plus I get on a soapbox a lot and wanted to have something fun and simple to balance things outs.

12. What kind of pages should an artist have for submissions and portfolio reviews?
My recommendation is 5 pages max on a story THAT YOU LIKE.  There’s plenty of time in life to work on scripts that you won’t like, so take this opportunity to do something that speaks to you.  And make sure it has backgrounds.  A friend of mine is doing some Zorro pages along with a Blade Runner sample.  Editors probably see a lot of X-Men and Wolverine, so a Zorro sample is sure to stand out.  There’s pressure to include a lot of different backgrounds and character to show your range—but I wouldn’t focus on that too much.  If you can knock the ass out of a Zorro story then you’re going to get their attention.

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