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Comics 101 for 02/21/2002
TheForce.Net Interview - Part 1
The following is an interview I did for the TheForce.Net's Jeff Boivin in June 2001. Please visit the fabulous folks at TheForce.Net, it's a great site.
When did you realize you wanted to become a professional artist?
Probably at a very young age, about four years old. I guess once I realized I could draw pretty well for a kid and color inside the lines. I never really thought about if I could make a living at it or if it was even a profession at such a young age. When I was that young I just enjoyed being told I was really good at something so the encouragement from family and friends throughout grade school and high school was definitely key. The decision to be an artist was kind of an ongoing thing ever since I could remember.
What was your first published art piece?
That would have probably been a comic book I illustrated during my sophomore year of college in 1993, when I was about twenty years old. The comic book was called 'Dead-Kid' and it was for a publisher called Sky Comics which eventually became Sacred Grounds Studios. I'm still collaborating with this company on comic book projects and as a writer for Sketch magazine.
Have you illustrated for other comic books?
I've illustrated some other comic books like 'Blood and Roses' for Sacred Grounds Studios. I'm currently penciling and co-writing a Blood and Roses "sequel" of sorts with its creator Bob Hickey. This book should come out soon sometime this year. It's a sci-fi/fantasy adventure book with a superhero edge to it and it should turn out to be a really cool book. I've also worked on my creator owned comic book, Death Avenger, for World Famous Comics. I'm still writing and drawing a new three issue mini-series for this to eventually be published once I complete it between my Star Wars projects and other assignments. I've also done some comic book work for DC and Image comics as well.
Who are your major influences?
A lot of comic book artists were my influences growing up. Artists like John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Alan Davis, Walt Simonson, Bernie Wrightson, John Buscema, the Romitas, Jim Aparo, Carmine Infantino, Howard Chaykin, Mike Mignola, Rick Leonardi, Frank Miller and George Perez all come to mind. Actually I still pay attention to a lot of these guys' art today including their newer work if they're still creating. My former comic book teacher, Darryl Banks, who illustrated Green Lantern for DC is someone I still really look up to. There are also illustrators like Ralph McQuarrie, Hugh Fleming, Dave Dorman and Drew Struzan who amaze me. I really like Jan Duursema's work for all the Star Wars books she's been doing. The Darth Maul series looked phenomenal. I'm looking forward to her art in the Episode II comic adaptation.
Who is your current favorite comic artist? And what is your favorite SW comic series or artist?
I have so many influences and artists I really admire right now, but my current favorite comic artist probably has to be Jan Duursema. Just about all I buy are Star Wars comics since I try to stay on top of continuity. It's also about all I can afford with my budget since there are so many Star Wars comics coming out.
My favorite Star Wars comic book series is a toss up between Dark Empire and the Heir to the Empire adaptation. I love the artwork and story for both and I've always enjoyed Cam Kennedy's work. The coloring for both series was really amazing. I also really anjoyed the Manga editions of Star Wars and Empire. The style really fit perfectly and it definitely gave a refreshing and unique look to a story everyone has seen a hundred times and knows so well.
I also really enjoy the art from the Blade of the Immortal series. Hiroaki Samura just does amazing work. Wow!
Have you ever considered doing Star Wars comics for Dark Horse Comics?
I've always considered doing artwork for Dark Horse's Star Wars comics. In fact, I've lost count as of how many submissions I've sent them over the years. Getting to illustrate for any of their Star Wars books or even just one short story for Star Wars Tales would be a dream come true. Comic books are and always will be my first love. Star Wars comics were what inspired me to be an artist as a kid in the first place. If I ever do receive a Star Wars assignment from Dark Horse I wouldn't give them anything less then the best artwork I could create possible. I plan on sending another portfolio their way in the near future so if Dark Horse is listening, I really hope they keep their eyes peeled for my work.
When did you become a Star Wars fan?
I saw the film in the theater when it opened in 1977. I was about four years old so Star Wars has always been kinda with me ever since I could remember. Even during the "dark times" when Star Wars fandom was low, from about 1984 to the early 90's, I was still buying the Marvel Star Wars comics and the WEG stuff. And eventually the Zahn novels and Dark Horse's Dark Empire comics as the fandom resurfaced. There were a few years of crossover and years in between reserved for collecting GI Joes and Transformers though.
Like a lot of creative people in the visual arts who grew up on the Star Wars movies, they definitely motivated me to draw as a child. Between the toys, coloring books, comic books and the model kits, there was all this cool Star Wars merchandising that made it easy for me to be inspired to create. I feel fortunate to have been just old enough to remember seeing the movie a handful of times that summer and during the rerelease later on. I'd come home and draw scenes in the movie from my head or trace pictures from the Marvel comic book adaptation my mom got me for my birthday that summer.
How did you get involved professionally with Star Wars, and why the Role-Playing Game?
Getting involved with Star Wars professionally happened in late 1996 for me. I had been out of college for about six months and was working on my portfolio trying to get more comic book work and fun freelance illustration jobs. I was currently working as an in-house illustrator for a company but wanted to do more creative things as an artist than what I was doing at my full-time job.
I had previously done some freelance artwork for the Champions role-playing game while still in college and decided to pursue some other gaming companies with my portfolio submissions. I already owned most of the Star Wars rpg books and miniatures from West End Games when I collected them during highschool and I had always been a big Star Wars fan.
Since my buddies and I used to play the rpg during highschool and early college I was constantly buying the current books and games they were producing too. I was very aware of the kind of material and artwork WEG was producing. I think this was helpful as I tailored my portfolio submission for them.
These books always have the names of art directors and editors in the contents or opening pages so I threw together some xeroxes and color prints of my work as samples and started mailing them to these people at WEG. Sometime soon after I got phone calls from Stephen Crane and Bill Smith there. They gave me my first Star Wars assignment doing interior illustrations for No Disentegrations, a bounty hunter rpg book, which came out in 1997.
WEG had me illustrating consistently for a variety of different Star Wars books as well as The Official Adventure Journal. I think I illustrated about eight or nine Star Wars books for them from 1997 to summer of 1998 and had done artwork for about four more. Those four never came out unfortunately because WEG lost the license before they could be printed.
My current association with the new Star Wars role-playing game from Wizards of the Coast came about in a similar way. It was more portfolio submissions, phone calls and making contacts. It was also really about listening to what the art directors were looking for in terms of style. Once I was approved as an artist by Wizards for the license I had to re-establish myself as an artist with Lucasfilm by getting their approval again. Last year I got my first Star Wars assignment from Wizards illustrating the 'Marvel Aliens' feature for Star Wars Gamer #1.
I've completed artwork for some more issues of Gamer and just recently did artwork for the role-playing game. Hopefully I'll continue illustrating Star Wars for Wizards as long as they will have me since I really enjoy working with everyone there. And I personally can't think of anything more fun for me than getting paid to draw Star Wars.
The rest of this interview concludes next week. See you then!
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