Ed Lavallee – Pop Star Assassin Creator

Ed Lavallee – Pop Star Assassin Creator

Ed Lavallee has opened up about how his career began and the way he manages to balance graphic design and comics. And when he breathes new life into one his lifelong projects we cannot sit tight: we have to know more about Pop Star Assassin! And about “Ed Lavallee, the Creator”.

We’ve briefly talked about PSA before, but we need more info! Where did you come up with the concept?

The idea for Pop Star came about as a culmination of all of the pop cultural influences I loved growing up as a child in the 70’s. I loved all types of genre films sci-fi, horror, action/adventure, but the pinnacle for me was watching Black Belt theater on Saturdays. This was usually a double feature with crazy, over-the-top characters, and even crazier Kung Fu action, but at the same time it was juxtaposed by the hilarity of the badly dubbed English. With that said, my hero then and now will always be THE MASTER, THE DRAGON – BRUCE LEE! His movies and everything about him had a huge influence on me. If you haven’t seen the documentary I AM BRUCE LEE – watch it! You won’t be disappointed.

 

What can you tell us about this universe you created?

Well, Pop Star is set in the 70’s and starts out in Vegas, without giving away too much this first miniseries sets events in motion that will change the face of the planet resulting in a very Blade Runner-esque – the only difference it will be brought with 1970’s low-fi gadgetry and tech. Big, bulky, and unreliable. Ray guns, EMPs, orbital weapons platforms, massive rooms full of giant super computers.

 

You’re in a safe place here. You can confess: is Elvis secretly your almighty idol and inspiration?

Elvis did play a big part of my childhood. He was larger than life – THE KING of Rock n Roll. His fame was otherworldly, legendary. Part of that plays into the story in the fact that when Elvis died there was so much speculation, an unanswered questions…then the Elvis sightings started popping up and that just added to the mystery and elevated him to god-like stature in the eyes of the world – not just Americans. The tabloids are still running stories about Elvis to this day. Makes for a great story though, huh? 😉 Ultimately though, Bruce Lee is my ultimate inspiration and almighty idol!

 

Now, seriously, were there any artists and/or authors who influenced you on this particular project?

Well, like i said previously the majority of the influences for Pop Star were all of the things that influenced me in the formative years growing up in the 1970’s, but I would say it is ultimately influenced by everything. No one specific artist or author comes to mind, but if I had to name names, I would have to say Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, and Francis Ford Coppola.

 

PSA has a very specific style when we speak about its artwork and storyline. What was your goal?

Really, my goal with the artwork for PSA is the same as my goal with artwork for every comic book project I work on – find the BEST, most talented, and unique artists I can find to bring the story to life. I am very lucky to be working with the brilliant, MARCELO BASILE. A true master of the craft, he is really kicking ass on Pop Star. Each new page of art I receive is better than the previous. He is the visual mastermind behind the look and feel of all things Pop Star Assassin. He is to be applauded. Take a bow, Marcelo!

 

You work with different artists on this project: Marcelo Basile, as artist, and MattCashel, as co-writer. What did you find more difficult to collaborate in: the artwork or the writing?

I’m a fairly laid back guy when it comes to collaborating with other creatives – I think this comes from working as a production artist/graphic designer as my day job. As part of a team it is all about compromise. I tell all of the artists. I work with that my script is just a loose outline of what I see happened, and to feel free to change things up if there is a better way to something visually. After all they are the experts. I will make points in y script if there is something specific that needs to be seen, but other that I like to leave most of the heavy lifting to the artist. Writing collaboratively, is much the same, but more back and forth with dialogue and moving the story forward in a way that is interesting and makes sense. Compromise is key.

 

Did you find yourself on the spot, having to make many concessions or was it a smooth ride?

It is a fairly smooth ride. Marcelo is a consummated professional, and is always willing to make edits to art if there is something I need changed. though it is pretty rare that I ever want to change anything. I mean C’MON, have you seen his pages! Perfection!!!

 

How did it feel to get such positive feedback from Jimmy Palmiotti?

Jimmy P is the hardest working professional in comics today. He is also the coolest, most genuine, and nicest guy you will ever meet at a comic convention! I am truly lucky to have Jimmy’s endorsement. Meant a LOT to me for sure. 

 

Having personally financed the first 2 issues of Pop Star Assassin, you’re now running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund issue #3 and beyond.

What do you think attracts comic book fans to PSA?

Well, I know for one thing the art if out of this world, but I hope that readers see PSA as the total package.  After all, what’s not to like about Sex, Drugs, Rock-N-Robots, right? We believe strongly in the story and characters and come hell or high water we will get this first 6 issue miniseries finished!

 

You offer many variant covers for PSA, from an array of comic book artists. How did you manage to get so many different artists interested in the Pop Star Assassin universe?

All of the artists doing variant covers are either people I have worked with in the past or people who I admire and would like to work with in the future. We truly are lucky to have so many talented artists doing covers for the campaign. Most of them I just asked.

 

What can we expect from Pop Star Assassin in the future (besides its 3 other issues!)?

Pop Star is a far reaching story and was originally planned as an ongoing series. As we reach the end of issue 6 the world will be turned on its head. We are trying to build a deep universe of characters and sub-plots that can really go in any direction. We will start to see some of that with Norma and a new character that debuts in issue 3. Stay tuned!

 

Have you ever considered seeing it adapted to an audiovisual format? If so what would you choose: live-action or animation? Movie or TV-series?

The ultimate dream of most comic creators getting that option! While I can honestly see PSA as a full-on, over-the-top, live action blockbuster, I feel that the depth of the story and its characters could only be done justice with a live action TV show on a premium cable channel – HBO, Showtime and Netflix are all doing stellar work. Game of Thrones for me, is my favorite show on televisions right now. Season 2 of Daredevil was pretty kick as also though!

 

We know you’re hyper focused on PSA right now, but what other projects can we expect from you in the near future? 

Well, I currently have a few irons in the fire so to speak. I am working on Backlands with Jeremy Mohler and Erick Marquez – issue 1 is complete with issue 2 in production. I am working with artist Rudy Garcia on Julia Cruz: Evolution Cop. We are putting the finishing touches on issue 3 right now

 

Fans will be able to find you at Planet Comicon this month! What are you most looking forward to that weekend?

Conventions are always a creative re-charge for me, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and seeing all of the new comics and art is always super inspiring for me. It’s always fun hanging out afterward with everyone, having a few beers and talking shop. But ultimately, I am there for the fans and hope to make a lot of new ones! Without them, we are nothing! Putting a smile on someone’s face is what this is all about. Stop by and see us at the Outland Entertainment booth.

 

Any surprises planned?…

Hmmm…??? 🙂

 

 

Thank you, Ed, for killing our curiosity about this “lysergic trip to the heart of American conspiranoia” that is Pop Star Assassin.

 

S.G.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to check out PSA Kickstarter campaign! (At least have a look at the video and spread the word: Ed’s rock’n’roll look is worth it!!)

Andy Poole – Colorist on N0.1R

Andy Poole – Colorist on N0.1R

Poole is a British artist who enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. Drawing from a young age, music and sports played a big part in this talented artist life.

 

There are a lot of preconceptions, even rules of how a noir work should look. 

How is it to work on such a setting?

Noir was always something I’d evaded in the past, it always seemed so boring to work in black and white or greys. I’m a Colourist, that means I work in colour, the fun stuff. What a naive attitude, I’m sure it stopped me from being involved in some of the most interesting projects I could ever work on.

The truth is, noir is ruled by the story and characters, not the visuals, and I should have realised that earlier on. People focus on film noir when they think of noir as a genre, and that’s just not how it is. Blade Runner is a noir, and that was a visual spectacle, not the black and white cinema people expect. Knowing that, I’ve come to be a lot more open and am able to enjoy noir work. I no longer constrain myself.

With a project like N0.1R, I’m able to take those preconceptions and turn them on their heads. It has that traditional atmosphere from pre 50’s cinema, the black and white visuals, but then when the story hits a climax, I’m going to be injecting colour and light that should change people’s perceptions the way my own were. It’s very exciting.

 

Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?

I’m not feeling any other pressures outside of the usual, as I’m working with a supportive team who are offering guidance when they can. The line artist, Nicolás, has been especially helpful, the rendering style is somewhat styled after his own work too.

 

What attracts you most about being a colorist?

That’s not a question I can give one answer to. I love the creativity, the collaboration, the story telling and the challenge. I also love seeing black and white art brought to life with colour, under my very hands. It’s unbelievably satisfying.

 

Do you have a genre you look for in your projects? Why?

I’ve not been in the position to pick and choose what projects I work on, that’s an unfortunate reality for many independent artists. Given the choice however, I’d love to tackle some hard science fiction, particularly with a focus on space. I’m a sucker for spaceships with flashy lights and pulsing engines. If I could paint a nebula or render a planet for the characters to explore, I’d take on that book every time.

 

When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?

In a broad sense, very early on. I loved to draw from as far back as I can remember, I took up music before I hit my teens and started writing not long after. I’d tackled the major artistic forms before there were hairs under my arms. I’d also lost interest in those things only years later. It wasn’t until college that I found my creative feet again. And later still, I hadn’t discovered comic book colouring until my early twenties.

 

What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?

Comics weren’t the cultural giant in England as they were in the US, my interaction with the medium was with comic strips in the papers and with children’s comedy books like The Beano or The Dandy. I didn’t seek out American comics until later in life when the internet introduced me to them where my friends and family could not, it just wasn’t a part of the culture.

Drawing on the other hand, that was always present. My favourite memory has to be from my school days. All of the classes in my year had gone on a trip abroad that my family couldn’t afford to send me on, so I was left to be handed around other classrooms with a blank pad and the task to create anything I wanted as long as I filled each page. I loved drawing, I loved nature and animals, so I wrote and drew my own nature book. It mainly contained birds of prey, sharks, crocodiles and the occasional poisonous insect, all of the cool animals of course. When my teachers and classmates returned, they really didn’t show much interest in what I’d accomplished, but I was proud enough to hold on to that book well into my adulthood.

 

Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?

Like I said, comics weren’t big where I grew up. Football (soccer) was the biggest cultural pass time, and still is today I suppose. I hated it, still do. I was able to escape it all with computer games and drawing for the most part. Discovering Japanese animation through bootleg video tapes and terrible televised translations also helped me zone out and find enjoyment outside of a culture I didn’t feel much a part of.

 

Did you always want to work on this creative field?

As a kid, I secretly wanted to be a policeman, then a soldier. In high school I wanted to be a graphic designer or architect. When I was at college age, sixteen to eighteen, I started writing very seriously and wanted to become a novelist or a comic book author. But at the time I was already studying new media and web design, which then led on to digital art and then I kind of just grew into becoming a colourist. I love digital rendering, though I still want to be a novelist… Or an astronaut…

 

Is there one project that stands out from the rest?  Why is that one different?

In my professional career, a short comic book fantasy called King and No King stands out most. It was my first time colouring on a project that would be published by a big publisher, this being Image Comics in their Popgun series of anthologies. I was working on Ryan “Wya” Ottley’s artwork, it was right up my street. It contains my favourite comic book panel that I’ve coloured to date and is a benchmark in my career, bridging the gap between amateur and professional.

Personally, I wrote a short experimental comic called The Last Man, with artwork being a collaboration between me and an artist called John West, who is now a good friend. I took up the major art duties, painting backgrounds and environments, and John produced the design and lines for the lone character of the piece, in his style that I enjoy immensely. It was proof to myself that I could make good looking artwork and collaborate with people without the pressure of finance over my head.

 

From deciding color palettes to applying the last smear of color what is your process? Is it a painfully strict plan or a more organic process?

My very first step is deciding on the rendering style. Am I painting everything on the page? Do I tackle it with cell style shades, or do I go with the anime style that inspires me, fully painted backgrounds with cell shaded characters and objects?

Either way, I flat everything and then render the backgrounds with either my own pre-set colour palettes or new palettes when needed. Character colours come next, and then any lighting and effects that seem to be my hallmark, or so I’m told.

I mostly stick to that process, but lately, working on projects with Outland Entertainment, I’ve had to tackle artwork with rendering and colour styles that I never have before. I’ve had to be much more adaptive and let the process develop organically with these projects.

 

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

Outland’s N0.1R is something I always like to work on, it is both easy and fun, the perfect combination. The project titled Star of Mourning is very exciting for me, it is a challenge, heavy on digital paints that are quite time consuming and requires a lot of experimentation to get the look and feel the creators desire. However, it looks very good and I look forward to each new page that comes my way.

 

Thanks Andy for giving us a small peek into your creative world!

My pleasure.

 

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino – Creator & Artist (Mars2577, Nightfell, N0.1R, …)

Nicolás Giacondino is a talented Argentinean artist that has taken Outland Entertainment by storm. His unique style fits unseemingly into a vast array of projects without ever losing its authenticity.  

You’re working in several comics here at Outland Entertainment. From being the artist in Mars2577 to co-creator and illustrator of Nightfell and N0.1R.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

Collaborating with other authors (be it writers, artists, colorists, etc.) has to be an organic and loose experience. You have to be open to the ideas sent your way and offer what you think are valid points to improve the story. And yes, there’s a level of compromise, but always to the work itself; you never have to become too attached to your own conceptions and ideas so much so that they’ll clash with the others’ or create tension. If it’s better for the story, then you have to incorporate it.

Speaking specifically of the projects I have here in OUTLAND, the back and forth between all the parts involved in the creation process has been amazing. Everyone’s extremely professional and at the top of their game in their respective areas, offering great advice and also knowing when to give the other the upper hand if something will work better for the saga. In my case, being the artist, I will provide visual cues and ideas for the writers to interpret and reimagine. They then send me their own takes and I’ll assess the suggestions and improve the material so that we’re all on the same page.

It’s my opinion that collaboration is the best experience when making comics. It forces you out of your comfort zones and exposes you to new and radical ideas, which help you to evolve your artwork.

Does it help or hurt knowing in advance that you’ll be the one giving a concept its visual life?

Definitely helps. I’ve dabbled a bit in writing (I have a published graphic novel penned by myself), but my primary concern has always been the artwork. So, being able to focus and work solely on the visual aspect lets me do my best knowing the other parts of the project are taken care of.

I also love to give the writers or collaborators in all the projects I tackle the utmost respect to their vision. I have a very unique style, but I’m open to it bending to the requirements of the story. You can never get something illustrated 100% as the writer imagined it; but I try to come to at least 99%.

Did you always envisioned these projects as webcomics?

Well, I always envisioned them as comics.With the climax of the digital age all around us, webcomics were the default option to get the project out there in the world. That said my intent is that we may be able to see these stories in print too.

Ours is such a strong medium, so full of possibilities that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Webcomics have taken things a step beyond in that they allow a larger number of artists and writers to express their vision without having to go through the filter of a major publisher or a ‘house style’. For me, personally, that’s been very advantageous and liberating. My style isn’t what you’ll usually find in the cover of the big companies, but published independently it has found a great audience that luckily grows larger every day.And I’ve seen the same happen to other artists and creators, who are able to reach a much more massive audience than they could’ve dreamed of.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

I’ve always been very passionate about science fiction and have been fortunate to be able to tackle projects related to it through the years.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy working in other genres, such as Fantasy or Steampunk. I’m always curious and willing to try things out and my style is very adaptable to many different kinds of stories. Horror, for example, isn’t something I’d done. But through Outland, I was able to illustrate two tales in that genre that were very exciting!

Why Science Fiction?

Science Fiction, for me, allows you to contemplate very interesting, radical ideas and philosophical issues with more ‘purity’ than in any other genre. The far future or the dystopian near future peels our preconceptions on any given subject so that the message is carried across with more strength, allowing the reader to think about the implications of the narrative devoid of his personal stakes in it. For example, cloning is a very tricky subject in the contemporary world; there’s lots of ethical and moral questions being addressed and everyone has a political, human or religious view. If I transport them into a distant planet or time, cloning then becomes something abstract, an idea that can be dissected within the boundaries of that new world. Yet, the consequences and realizations that you bring back with you when the reading experience is over are carried into our contemporary world, hopefully giving people a new perspective on the matter.

When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?

As I always say, I started drawing as soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil. And, asking my parents about my passion, they tell me it goes indeed that far back. I had a few other interests during my teenage years, but drawing is what’s always driven me.

What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?

Well, living in Argentina, sometimes we didn’t have access to all the latest material being published in the US. But there was a point in the 90s, when the arrival of comics would be almost instantaneous upon release, which caused me to open up to some major influences.

I remember a day in particular, when I was walking down a street from school and came across a newspaper stand and amongst the magazines and usual comics, there was the first issue of Jim Lee’s run on X-Men. I flipped quickly through the pages and dredged up whatever money I had in my pocket and bought it. Inside, there was an interview with Lee himself, talking about his process and whatnot and that’s when I decided I’d wanted to do this for a living. Up until that point, drawing comics was a hobby, but that issue of X-Men and Jim’s words changed my mind completely and set me on my path to become a professional.

Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?

Like I said, there wasn’t a lot of material back when I was growing up. Mostly old DC paperbacks and some indie stuff. Argentina once had a huge comics industry and a lot of amazing talents came from here south into the international market, but after the dreaded dictatorship of ’76, it was all but dismantled. In fact, my hometown only had one comic-book store, which I discovered when I was 18 years old. But I was always interested in whatever I could find, so yes, I did read a lot of what was available.

As for other activities, I also enjoyed music passionately. I played the drums in bands all through high school and considered it a career option at some point, but as I said earlier, drawing always kept me coming back. Whenever I’d have to design a poster or CD cover, I’d remember why I loved it so much.

What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?

Jim Lee was my absolute hero, as I mentioned before. But I also followed the work of other classic artists that helped me shape my style a lot, including Jack Kirby and Bruce Timm, two of my most important influences.

Later in life and as I found more and more material to read, I found the likes of Frank Miller, Neal Adams, John Romita and so many others. From my country, I also loved the work of Carlos Meglia and Enrique Breccia, both of whom I had the chance to meet personally. The latter became my mentor when I participated in one of his illustration and comics seminars.

Did you always want to work on this creative field?

At first, I didn’t even know that was possible. I’m not sure it is now either, haha!

I always sort of took comics for granted. I mean, I knew they had to be drawn and written by someone, but I never dug deeper into what professionals in the field actually did; I just enjoyed them and figured there were a few lucky fellows who were able to work on these amazing magazines. It wasn’t until the boom of Image Comics and artists making a big splash away from the major publishers that I realized this was something you could do for a living. So, upon that discovery, I started reading and studying more and more, trying to find ways to make it as a professional comic artist.

Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, lining,.. Do you have a favorite?

I enjoy the whole process, from pencils to colors. But inking has always been the part that I enjoy the most. In fact, Outland has given me the chance to work a lot in black and white and showcase my artwork as such, which has been a huge pleasure. Line weight, spotted blacks, crosshatching… those basics of inking make me truly happy when I’m doing a page.

 

And projects? Is there one that stands out from the rest?

They all have unique qualities that I think make them amazing, but if I had to choose one in particular I’d say Nightfell is the one that stands out the most.

Why is that one different?

Because it flips a common trope which we all know: that zombies eat the living. In Nightfell, the undead actually protect us and are our last line of defense against darker, more sinister creatures from below. That basic premise brings about uniqueness to the work that I think makes it truly original.

Also, it has deep roots in the Sword and Sorcery genre and it was conceived to be read as either a regular comic-book or a strip (which is how it’s being released in the website). That is also something that hasn’t been seen for quite a while and a format that both Jeremy Tolbert the writer and myself enjoy enormously.

From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?

My take on a page usually starts with reading the script and making a mental image of how the composition should work. I visualize the panels and what the writer’s vision is and then I map that out in panels across the page.

Once the panels are laid out, I go in very quickly and sketch out the basic perspective and character interaction and make sure everything works and is where it should be. When I’m satisfied with the storytelling, I tighten up the pencils and send them to the Editor and writer for approval.

If approved, then I move onto the final inks. With Outland, this has been the final stage in many projects and so once it’s done, I send it as a hi-resolution scan for it to be colored and lettered.

If I’m illustrating the whole, then I take special care to not outline certain things I will leave specifically for color to define. I then go in and add the volumes with grayscale and once that’s done I’ll put in the colors and details.

Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?

I’m very strict in the process. I found out that it is the best way to meet the deadlines and focus properly on every step.

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

I’m very much looking forward to showing audiences the projects we’ve been working on so hard. Especially Nightfell and N0.1R, a crime story set in a world where organic life is nonexistent and robots rule in a mimicry of our 1940s.

There’s always something else in the pipeline, but I can’t really reveal much other than there’s exciting times ahead!

 

Thanks Nicolás for giving us a small peek into your creative world!

Thank you and I hope you enjoy the stories we’re working on!

 

S.G.

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos – Artist & Author Interview

Mat Nastos is a versatile artist who always manages to infuse his unique sense of humor into the countless projects he is involved with. He is known by his work as an artist in the cult-classic independent comic book, “ElfQuest”, and as a writer for film & TV as well as for his own novels. Fan of action packed stories with a sci-fi or steampunk twist, you won’t be surprised that from all the children shows out there, he worked for Disney Channel‘s “Phineas & Ferb”.

 

Mat, the big question: what did you want to be when you grow up?

My goal in life, from as early as I can remember, was to be a comic book artist when I grew up. Comics in general were my life: I read them, collected (read: horded) them, drew them…I started and ran the first comic book conventions in Hawaii in the 80s back when I was 11. Comics were my life and my driving goal had been to draw them. That spurred me to go to comic book school out in the middle of New Jersey when I graduated from High School.

I drew comics for a lot of years before transitioning over to film/TV and, eventually, to writing.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I remember my mom reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to me as a child, but nothing specific. I still have the very first comic I was given – “The Power of Warlock” #14. The first real book I remember reading was “The Hobbit” when I was about 6 or 7. That really stuck with me and opened the door to fantasy/sci-fi fiction for me. After I read that any the “Lord of the Rings” series, I went nuts and started reading everything I could get my hands on. Luckily, I had an older brother and mom who were also into that material and I’d read a lot of things they were.

Right around the same time, my family discovered the early Dungeons & Dragons game (late 70s) and I’ve been playing ever since.

 

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I read EVERYTHING as a kid. Pretty quickly my collection of comics bloomed up into the thousands and then tens of thousands (now it rests at somewhere around 150,000 comics). When I was younger, my favorites were Elfquest, X-men, 2000AD, and Legion of Super-Heroes, but I wasn’t picky beyond that.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

I don’t read much in comics these days, and when I do they are generally trade paperbacks versus singles. The art of writing comics to actually be read as singles has become a bit of a lost art over the past 20 years or so and I find it a waste to attempt to follow series in that format. I pick up a lot of omnibus collections of material I was a fan of as a kid.

Outside of comics, I read an insane amount of things – tons of non-fiction, and at least 3-4 novels a week. Still a lot of sci-fi/fantasy more than anything else, although thrillers and any sort of action stories are finding their way onto my reading list as I begin to write more and more in those genres.

 

Who were your childhood heroes?

Most of my heroes were the men (and women) creating the material I was a fan of: George Lucas, Wendy Pini, John Byrne, George Perez, Stan Lee, Piers Anthony, Jim Kelly, Gary Gygax, Ed Greenwood, Chris Claremont…my dad.

 

And today? Who do you look up to? 

I’ve been lucky enough that I still have a lot of the same heroes I did as a kid. I still have most of that sense of wonder and love I had as a kid.

 

Your first published work was in “The Big Book of Urban Legends” from Paradox Press in 1993. But what was the first thing you ever wrote?

My first published writing was a short fantasy story I wrote back in high school. I had an English teacher who was truly a terrible human being who went out of her way to put me down. Her abuse turned out to be a driving factor for me and I submitted a story I’d written in her class (and been given a “C” on!) to Fantasy Digest Magazine. They bought it and I was on my way!

After that, my writing was for my own comics – things like the Cadre, Elfsong, and Fionn.

My first “real” gig as a writer was the screenplay for the low-budget horror flick, “Stinger,” in 2002. Since then I’ve had 8 films produced.

 

Your writing spans from comic books to novels, video games to film and TV. Do you have a favorite?

Writing, in general, for me is a lot of fun. The most satisfying for me as a creator is probably novels because I have complete control over there. Good or bad, with a novel every aspect of it falls onto my shoulders. If it succeeds or fails, things are all on me.

The rest of the mediums all have their own positives, though, and comics will always be my first love. Working with a fantastic art as a collaborator is an incredibly fulfilling experience.

 

You have done the artwork, including the cover art for all your own books. Why?

I think it all goes back to control. So far, I’ve had very specific ideas of what I wanted on the novel covers and the easiest way to get those ideas out was to do them myself.

Does it ever backfire?

Not yet, knock on wood!

 

Your work in the comic world started with “Elfquest” comics for Warp Graphics, right? What made you enter this new universe of storytelling?

Well, my first comic work was on “The Big Book of Urban Legends,” and I had done quite a bit of indy comic work before Elfquest, including working as an assistant to Joe Orlando at the DC Offices while I was in art school.

Comics were my life-long love. Elfquest specifically was my favorite comics. Funnily enough, my biggest goal in going to art school was to draw Elfquest. I had always figured it would take me years (5, 10, or more!) to get a chance to work with the Pinis on Elfquest – they had never let anyone else draw the comic back when I was reading it, so my goal was a crazy fantasy at the time. It was mind-blowing to get a call from Barry Blair asking me if I wanted to work on Elfquest. I was still at the School of Visual Arts when he contacted me and it was easily one of the best days of my life.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to work in comics.

 

“The Cestus Concern”, your first novel, was the #1 best selling Cyberpunk & Sci-Fi Adventure novel on Amazon for 7 consecutive months in 2013. How does it feel to have your work on the spotlight?

It was pretty crazy. Novel writing wasn’t something I had ever set out to do…in fact, when I started writing “The Cestus Concern” I’d never written more than a couple of short prose stories. Sure, I had written a bunch of material for TV/film and comics, but prose was so alien to me I wasn’t convinced I could even do it.

My whole goal with the book (and each once that’s followed) was to write something that I wanted to read. To write something fast, fun, and crazy. It’s been a great to see that so many other people have enjoyed the work as much as they have. As a storyteller, nothing is better than connecting with fans the way the Cestus books have.

 

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

I’ve been lucky to work on a huge number of fun projects, so it’s hard to pick. Right now, the thing I’m the most in love with my Donner Grimm books. The first, “Man With The Iron Heart,” came out at the end of 2014 and I am finishing up the sequel, “The Unweaving,” right now. I love the action-adventure/pulp/weird war universe I’ve created for it and the characters are a lot of fun.

In comics, it’s the new Elflord series I’m working on. The artist, Tony Vassallo, is insanely good and the material we’re putting together isn’t like anything else being done in fantasy comics right now. The series is crazy good.

 

You own the license from Barry Blair’s projects. What made you take that leap?

Barry himself was the reason behind me picking up the rights to all of the material. We had been friends since the early 90s when he hired me to work for Warp Graphics on the Elfquest material, and we had very similar sensibilities . We started talking in 2007 about working together again and one of the things that came up was my love for so many of the characters he’d created, especially things like Elflord, Dragonforce, and Samurai. He said he was done telling those stories, but asked if I wanted to carrying on with their tales on my own. He turned over the rights to all the material to me in exchange for my promise to treat them like my own children.

We had been well on our way to doing a ton of new material together when he passed in early 2010. It was a crushing blow for me and it took almost 5 years for me to get back to the point where I felt like I was ready to start again. To be able to put the work out FOR Barry since I couldn’t do it WITH him.

 

Outland Entertainment is working closely with you not only to bring several of Barry Blair’s titles into digital format but to actually reboot some of them.

What are you most excited about this endeavor? 

The most exciting part of working with Outland is having the chance to bring Barry’s work back out into the public eye. Barry was a creative dynamo who generated a ton of fun material in a dizzying array of genres. He worked in every possible genre you can image: sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, horror, satire, action/adventure, erotica…you name it and he produced work in it.

It’s been a shame that his work has disappeared from the comic industry, especially since his work and company (AIRCEL) was such a huge force in the 80s and early 90s.

Having the opportunity to make that work available once more is a thrill and an honor for me because I was a huge fan of Barry’s work, as well as having been his friend for more than two decades.

 

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I’ve got a lot of work coming out this year. Right now I’m finishing off sequels to both my prose series with “The Cestus Corruption” and “The Unweaving.”

In comics, I’m writing Rob Liefeld’s new “Brigade” series for Image and “Blindside” for Marat Mychaels. For Outland, I’m writing a series based on my Aegisteel fantasy stories with Alan Gallo as the artist; Elflord with Tony Vassallo, and a brand new Dragonforce series that will be drawn by Richard Pace (you heard it here first!).

It’s going to be a fantastic year!

It sure looks like it! Thanks Mat for taking time to let us get a glimpse of your vast creative work!

S.G.

Artist Interview – Jeremy Mohler

Artist Interview – Jeremy Mohler

Experienced illustrator and colorist, Jeremy Mohler founded Outland Entertainment in 2008. He has been project manager at the Platinum Studios, colored for Marvel Comics, and art directed numerous projects, including an exhibit for the History Colorado Museum. He’s phenomenal at drawing personality into his characters and creating epic settings.

When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?

It’s hard to remember just when I started drawing.  I have some fuzzy memories of sitting at my grandmother’s table with my cousins drawing, but nothing really came into focus until I got to junior high and was introduced to comic books while in the Boy Scouts.  From that point forward, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do.

What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?

This isn’t exactly a childhood memory, but getting a chance to visit the Frank Frazetta museum out in Pennsylvania while I was attending the Joe Kubert School is definitely a favorite memory.  Frank has always been a huge inspiration and influence on me.  I came this close to meeting Frank – we just missed him that day.  But still, seeing his paintings up close was amazing.

Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?

I started reading comics when I was 13 or 14 and have pretty much read comics ever since.  Before that I was a voracious reader and remain that way to this day.

What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?

As I mentioned previous, Frank Frazetta was a big influence.  Larry Elmore, Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, Charles Vess, John Cassaday, Brom – all are favorites.  There are a lot of artists I love and adore, but these popped to mind first.

I actually had the good luck to get a great portfolio review from Charles Vess and John Cassaday.  Both of which were very kind and gracious.  I received 3rd in show at Gen Con some years back that Larry Elmore judged.  So I’ve had the good fortune to meet a few of the artists I grew up admiring.

Did you always want to work on this creative field?

Absolutely.  It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I freely admit, it’s not always been easy.  There have been times it’s really caused a lot of problems, but there’s nothing else I’ve ever wanted to do.

You’ve worked in mainstream comics as well as indie projects. Which of these lines of work do you prefer?

There are certainly advantages to both.  And if the stars align and a cool project comes along that is mainstream, I probably won’t turn it down.  With that said, however, I’ve always wanted to create and own my own projects.  This is a big part of why we’ve been pushing Outland toward publishing.

Why?

It is sometimes tiring to always be creating artwork for other people to realize their vision.  And don’t get me wrong – one of the great joys of this business is working with other creative people and I really love that aspect.  But I also want to have projects and stories that I feel passionately about out there – material that I had creative control to bring to life and leave my touch on.

What made co-found your own company, Outland Entertainment?

Let’s be honest – I’m not the fastest artist out there.  I found myself, at one point, in a position where I had multiple projects coming in that I found really interesting and I wanted to work on all of them.  I’d managed to build some relationships with some really great artists as well and it occurred to me that I might be able connect those artists with some of these projects and help manage them – that way I can be involved without being spread too thin.

Has Outland Entertainment grown at the same pace as you artistically speaking?

I think so.  A lot of the projects that Outland acquires come to us based on my reputation and my artwork.  So I think it has.

What’s the best thing of having your own company?

I love working with all the different creative – the artists, writers, designers, and everything in-between.  Helping coordinate these different projects and chasing down new ones is a lot of fun.  And I love it when a project comes together.

Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, drawing,… Do you have a favorite?

It varies a lot.  I like each aspect – sometimes it’s a lot of fun to color the work of other artists.  Something about that collaboration can be thrilling.  I also like drawing too – especially when it all comes together and the piece turns out good.

And projects? Is there one that stands out from the countless amount of work you’ve been involved with?

Probably the Old Bent’s Fort project for the History Colorado Museum.  I spent a year working on that project and I think it not only turned out great, but I’m immensely proud of the work.

Why is that one different?

It might have something to do with the museum.  I’m a huge fan of historical material and it was so exciting to be able to go to the museum and see, literally, life-size blow up’s of the characters I drew staring back at me.  And to think that so many people have been through the museum and learned something about Old Bent’s Fort from the work we created is really cool.

From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?

No big surprises here!  It begins with several layouts/sketches.  These vary – sometimes it only takes one try to nail a composition, other times it takes ten.

It’s at this point I usually start looking for any reference material or images to take inspiration from.

Once the composition is sorted out in the thumbnail, then comes the drawing.  This is the slog and admittedly, I’m not always the biggest fan of this part of the process.  For me, it’s always more about the end product than the process and if I could skip the process, I would, haha.

After the drawing is complete (many hours later, and in some cases, weeks), I scan the image, clean it up in Photoshop.  The image usually goes out to a flatter first – somebody to separate all the shapes in the image in color.  Once I get the flats back, it’s a matter of figuring out the color scheme and lighting.

Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?

What I outlined above is pretty much the plan.  Each step itself can be more organic though – I don’t approach color the same way every time, though the end result may look similar.

So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?

I’m definitely looking forward to illustrating Shotguns & Sorcery.  This is going to be one of the biggest projects of my life.  I plan to fully illustrate the book myself and I want to go the extra mile and pull out all the stops to make this the most lavishly illustrated book I possibly can.  I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and dive into it all!

Thanks Jeremy for sharing a little bit of your creative world with us!

My pleasure!  Thank you Susana!

 

S.G.