From Batman to Star Wars, Jeffrey has tackled numerous fandoms. Now, he faces the Warlock 5 Grid!
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
No, unfortunately I had never even heard of Warlock 5 before signing on to work on this project. I was given a .pdf containing all the images of all the books after signing, however. So, I’m working my way through them as work on the book. Amazing stuff!
Do you have a favorite character?
Honestly, my favorite character is Zania, full stop. From the very first description of the character, I loved her. Then, when I was told we would be making some small changes to her as well as updating her look, I loved her even more! I grew up loving characters like Wonder Woman, you know? Powerful females, but also beautiful women who could not only beat the snot out of a snarky kryptonian, but could also capture the gaze of every eye at the high-class gala! So when Zania came along, I gravitated towards her.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not at all. My favorite character is still Zania. Hands down. But what has changed since taking on the project is the amount of distance between my favorite character and the second place finisher. Zania was my fave by a long shot at the beginning, but I have really come to love others! Savashtar and Doomidor are at times the perfect picture of brotherly bickering and banter! Then, you also have the super dry mechanical wit of Argon. He’s not a sarcastic character by nature, but the fact that he takes everything said around him literally lends to a lot of funny interactions. He is super literal, but surrounded by a quartet of smart-mouths. It’s great! Tanith could easily have been a simple character summed up with one word: sexy. Yet, she is so much more than attractive. She has insanely powerful magic and is a natural leader. She’s great. All the other four guardians are and I’m getting to see that more and more as I work on the project. That’s the only change.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences do you have?
The original work cast a shadow the size of a mountain! Those pages are beautiful! I wanted to try and keep the core of the characters alive, but I have a style that is much more linear and graphic. I grew up drawing panels from the books I was reading. I’m talking Todd MacFarlane, Jim Lee, John Romita Jr., Mark Bagley, to name a few. But as I grew older, I started looking at a lot of different artists from the laundry list of ridiculously talked artists working today, and the ones that influence me the most would have to be Ryan Ottley, Ed McGuinnes, Sean Gordon Murphy, and Jim Lee.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Absolutely! I love action scenes, but so often the most impactful images, at least in my opinion, aren’t action-oriented, but drama-oriented. I mentioned Sean Gordon Murphy earlier, and now more specifically, his work on Joe the Barbarian. In that book, the ending is so powerful, it would bring tears to your eyes. I know it did to mine. It wasn’t the usual action scene capped by the shot of the death of a beloved character, for example. I won’t spoil the ending, but take my word for it. Buy the book, read it, and you’ll understand why I love dramatic scenes.
In Warlock 5, there is a great one. It takes place in Tanith’s chambers. She’s searching for something and is visited by Savashtar. They’re both detectives of a sort, and they have a kinship. Nothing tawdry, more of an unspoken connection, but in this scene Cullen wrote the dialogue in such a way as to be uncharacteristically unsnarky for Savashtar, as well as uncharacteristically affectionate for Tanith. It made for a scene that needed some subtlety. So, I arranged the camera angels and the composition to try and imply that they were engaging in a verbal dance. A back-and-forth spinning waltz that grabs you and takes you along with them. The best part is they never take a physical step in any direction in that entire scene! But they do move with each other just like a dancing duo reading the flow of each other’s moves.
I have to say that I’m more inspired by this script than any other I’ve ever worked on and its the depth that Cullen puts into it that makes scenes like this one happen. It happens to be my favorite scene so far!
The story is really diverse, ranging from fantasy settings to hi-tech scifi. How does one keep aesthetic coherence between this blend?
I think the best way to maintain coherence is to boil down the different genres to what’s at their respective cores. Once you do that, the job is to remain true to them. Remain true, but blend them. I think of it in terms of colors of paint. Imagine that Sci-Fi is red. The most intense, vibrant red you’ve ever seen. The same is true for Fantasy, but it’s yellow. Now, they seem like such different genres. Different colors. They both have bodies of works ranging from iconic movies to comics that inspired generations. Each one is a slightly different take on their original respective red and yellow. Perhaps the iconic movie Star Wars is a vermillion. That would make Star Trek: The Next Generation a scarlet. The comic book Conan is a goldenrod, while the movie by the same name is a canary yellow.
Both of the genres are filled with millions of iterations, but when you strip away all the subtle differences, you get back to the core of the genre, the yellow and red. Then, the job is to blend those colors to make orange. It’s understanding the two genres well enough to know what makes them unique and then blending those aspects together.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
The biggest challenge in bringing them to life is to try and constantly do justice to that depth of character you mentioned. We are all affected by our environment and so are the 5 warlocks. In order to do them justice, I must push to show the depths of the worlds that they hail from. When you’re trying to show, at minimum, five different worlds full of living beings, as well as their guardians, it is a super challenging task. You have to know these individual characters both inside and out. And when you can do that, then the real fun part kicks in. If you were from a different planet within a different solar system within a different galaxy, well you might have an entirely different response to a common occurrence/question than I would. Makes sense right? Right. But what is that response? Exactly. What IS that response? You have to know the answer to that question a million times over. And that’s just for one warlock. Now do it 4 more times! Ha! But basically you have to know seriously everything about the 5 guardians! It’s a challenge for sure!
Did the fact that a previous artist had already given them a face help or harm your creative process?
Oh, it absolutely helped! You hear it all the time as artists, ‘we needed somewhere to pull from. We need a starting point. And then we can go from there’. But lucky me, I already had a starting point, and amazing one at that. From there it was just a matter of breaking down the characters to their core, and keeping the most important stuff while playing around with the rest! The push and pull of reshaping these characters was made much, much easier with having already had such an amazing foundation to pull from!
Has it turned out as you’ve envisioned it so far?
Truthfully, it has turned out better than that. I have worked on projects before that got me certain positives but would come at the cost of certain negatives. You know how it is. And one project in particular had supremely tight deadlines. But I did it. I did the work. I even learned to get faster at interior pages. Big positive! But it turned out to be at the cost was the final art. I hated it. I still do. It doesn’t represent my skill set as an artist and it doesn’t feel like I improved at all during the production phase. And most importantly, it doesn’t look cool! So I hate that project.
But Warlock 5? Well this project is a completely different story. I feel like I am constantly learning and improving, I feel like it is easily, far and away the best storytelling I have ever put out and most importantly, it is the coolest looking interior pages I have ever made! And that’s not me bragging, I don’t do that. That’s just the results of me taking a cold, objective look at this project versus my previous ones. It’s the best storytelling I have ever created. And its the most fun I have ever had working on storytelling. It’s just way better than I ever could have hoped for! I truthfully hope this never ends!
Thanks Jeff, for giving us a sneak peek into your work and the future of Warlock 5!
Thank you so so much for talking with me! It was a blast! I hope you all love the book!
Andy Poole says that one of the reasons that attracted him about being a colorist is the satisfaction of “seeing black and white art brought to life with color, under your very hands.” In a previous interview, we have also learned he enjoys playing with conventions when it comes to coloring comics. But how did Andy face the Warlock 5 challenge?
Did you read Warlock 5 before joining this project?
I’d never even heard of Warlock 5 before joining the project, as comics were not an interest of mine up until maybe ten years ago, so a Canadian comic from the 1980’s was completely off my radar. I did get myself into gear and do some research on the series however, reading reviews and finding what books I could.
Did you discover a favorite issue?
Not a particular issue, no. The original Warlock 5 had a cliff hanger at the end of issue #3, which I won’t ruin here, but it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately, it was never resolved in later issues, so despite the writing continuing to be good and fun, I kind of gravitated towards the artwork instead of the story. From that point of view, any issue from #4 onward is a favorite.
While the first three issues had great artwork, the later issues kick it into overdrive with some of the most incredible black and white paints and inks I’ve ever seen. A page in issue five is especially nice, with the Robot Warlock Argon’s ship moving through space in front of a rocky, crater marked planet, with bright sun and ethereal nebula behind it all. The lighting is fantastic and makes the entire scene both dark and mysterious and beautiful too.
How about a beloved character?
Tanith. I find that the other Warlocks know their positions, powers, responsibilities and conspiracies well, but Tanith has had a lot of growth as a messenger of peace and harmony realizing that her standing as one of the Warlock 5 means performing acts that are far from savory. She’s straddling the line between her personal views and philosophy, and the corruption and violence that dealing with The Grid and the other Warlocks is pushing on her. Personal conflict is the most human story, my favorite kind of story, and she fits the bill the most.
Warlock 5 is tied to this 80’s view of a dystopian multiverse. How is it to work on such a setting?
The setting is interesting because it’s not a single setting at all, it’s like being thrust into 80’s Horror, or Urban Fantasy, Cyberpunk and I even get a Masters of the Universe vibe every now and then. These are all different worlds that rather than make the book feel convoluted, they make it work. They’re defined as individual worlds, not a mish-mash of genres. Working on that is interesting, it gives me the opportunity to join in on defining those individual worlds and genres using the colors, which is quite obvious when you see the color theory in practice.
The series has a – quite large and – faithful fanbase. Did that put any different kind of pressure onto you?
Not at all, mostly because I’ve remained blissfully ignorant of the fan base. But now I know… I did put pressures on myself though. When I saw the artwork from after issue #4 of the original run, I assumed that anyone who saw the art would pretty much instantly fall in love with it the way I did. As a Colorist I have to live up to that standard, and that is not easy at all.
The greyscale art is detailed and rendered expertly, and is something I would personally love to see the new series of books rendered as. But I’ve been brought on to modernize the story along with Cullen, Jimmy and Jeff, the writers and artist respectively, so I had to color the thing in a more modern style. I wanted to keep an eighties vibe, so I limited the color palette to suit that, but it’s still obviously a modern take.
Warlock 5 has always stricken me as having these bright colors. There seems to be something nearly violent about that approach. Do you agree with that? Or is it a misconception?
I can certainly agree. The original four issues had a very, I guess you could call it a sharp style of inks. They felt very in place with a violent story. Denis Beauvais, the artist, could reel that style in when the story required a softer touch however. I’ve tried to live up to that myself.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have when tackling this project?
I’ve tried not to be influenced by anything but the original source material and the creative team around me. If I feel I’m capturing the atmosphere of the original, I’m happy. If the Writers, Artist, Letter, Editor, Publisher and Creative Director are happy with it, I’m happy with it.
Are there any specific scenes that stand out?
Tanith using her magic stands out the most. It’s bloody brilliant, in the literal sense. Bright blue and white glowing power, taking the form of butterflies that Jeffrey Edwards must have killed his knuckles drawing. But he pulled it off excellently! I hope that I lived up to his efforts in those scenes, because he deserves nothing but the utmost praise for pulling them off.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
Yes and no. You come into projects like these, with very rich and detailed artwork, with a style in mind, but the work grows and changes all on its own, and you have to flow with it. I’ve found it both to be good and difficult for me to render, and it’s fallen away from my original vision, or perhaps my need to honor the original artwork. That aside, it looks quite nice, I’m pleased with how it’s turning out and can’t wait to see the printed pages. That’s when it all comes together, the experience of reading the finished product and holding those floppies or trades in your hands.
Thanks, Andy, for leading us through the colorful multiverse of Warlock 5!
Interview with Warlock 5 Writer Jimmy Z. Johnston
We’re excited to feature Jimmy Z. Johnston, writer for the Kickstarter-funded revival of Warlock 5!
What was your first contact with Warlock 5?
I picked them up new off the shelf in the late 80s. I remember seeing the cover to issue one and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
Why did it capture you?
100% the cover. I bought it because that cover was one of the most incredible I had seen. Issues 2-6 had fully painted covers featuring the face of each Warlock. And they stand the test of time today as being some of the most striking covers of their time.
Did you have a favorite issue?
In many ways, the first issue holds that honor. It did such a wonderful job introducing the world.
How about a beloved character?
I have a ton of art I did through high school, and there is one montage I have of dozens of characters I loved from various works. Argon is in that montage, if I find it I will share it.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
When I read them years ago, I never thought about the idea of where their story might go if I was writing it. It was a few years later that I began thinking about these things in earnest. But rereading the original series now is a tough thing to do. Because it is very much a product of the time. Storytelling was different back then. In issue 3 (I think) Zania sets off a nuke in Grid City. In issue 4 they don’t even acknowledge it. There is no way a writer could do something like that today, the fans would be all over it. They did resolve that eventually in the trade, but if you only get the issues you don’t see the resolution.
As for characters, when we started writing the series, I spent a lot of my time working on the new character Lycia, so my view of the original characters didn’t change much at all.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
Clive Barker is my biggest influence. He tells stories in ways that no other writer I have ever read can compare to. I do find it interesting, having read comics spanning all eras, how storytelling in comics has changed. I worked on Micronauts with Cullen Bunn, a series that originated with Marvel in the 70s. I have talked to fans who wish we were writing stories like the ones Marvel did. But the reality is that nobody could write like that today. Readers wouldn’t be interested in it. There are many readers who seek out the older stories like that, but the nostalgia factor lets them be read without worrying about the storytelling. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is one that stands the test of time. He did such a fantastic job telling the stories he told, that they will always be relevant examples of how to tell a story.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Cullen Bunn. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
In spite of what Cullen says, we work really well together.
But seriously, we sit down and talk out the idea. Then we write up a page by page outline. Sometimes that could be one line “FIGHT” or it could be a paragraph with dialogue we want to make sure we use. Through this process we make sure we don’t have too many scenes we are trying to fit in. In this case it was a 60 page script, so when we finished the outline, we talked about scenes we “wanted.” Cullen really wanted the Savashtar investigating scene, so we blocked that out for him. After we do that it is usually pretty close to an even split on the workload.
When we finish our parts, I combine it into one unified script and we both go over it. This part is fun because we get to revel in the genius of our parts and rewrite the stuff the other guy did. I joke about it. Usually it involves tweaking a few things here and there, but not too terribly much.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I met Cullen in 2003. He met me in 2004. There is a story there, but this isn’t the day for that. We were both at a horror convention for writers in New York (in 2004). Found out we lived very close to each other and when we got home started talking and hanging out more. He was working on writing prose, and I had discovered an innate talent for editing. I did an edit for him on a story and he really liked what I did. That was the start of working together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We are looking at this as a continuation of the series. 30 years later, these 5 are still defending reality from threats. They have changed, but the dynamics amongst them are still pretty consistent. Zania and Argon are the “bad” pair, while Tanith and Savashtar are the “good” pair, leaving Doomidor in the middle as the balance between them.
The only thing I really pushed for was doing a cover based on the original issue 1. We are technically working on the fourth run of the series. The second run was a short mini series that did a new version of the issue one cover. The third run did not, but it deviated massively from the original concept. I am glad that we got to use a version of the original cover. Jeffrey Edwards did an amazing job on it, and on every page that will be between the covers.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
Anytime you have an ensemble cast it takes time to develop the individuals. It is much easier to write a story with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman because you don’t need to establish who they are. You see the S, the Bat cowl, the lariat, and you instantly know who they are.
We have 5 main characters we are essentially introducing to readers. Along with a handful of new characters to the series. That takes time to develop. Being able to do a 60 page issue helps massively with the character development aspect.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
I am still pretty fresh in the comic world, so I am loving the process. Seeing thumbnails come in, then pencils, then inks, then colors. . . Seeing my words and scenes turned into comic pages is amazing. It is so much better than I envisioned it. I love it.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
Oh, I am constantly putting Easter Eggs into things. Many of which go unnoticed. Cullen is always telling me not to worry about things like that because no one will notice. The secret is, I am putting them in for me. I am ok if no one else ever notices!
I am guessing though that your question is leaning more towards the current political and social climate in our country. And that is something I try and avoid. I don’t need to make enemies right now as I get started in writing. Many writers and artists are taking positions publicly about their support or lack of support for our current administration. I will leave that to them for now.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
We start out seeing the Warlock 5 fighting against an incursion into Grid City, but we will be showing them in their own worlds. And a portion of this first volume is going to take place on a new world in crisis. This will be creating a dilemma for them as they have to choose between helping an individual world or pulling back to Grid City and simply protecting the Grid. It goes towards the question of what are you protecting. It is all good standing guard over a forest and making sure it doesn’t succumb to a forest fire, but when you let a lumberjack in to cut down a tree. . . well, it sucks if you are that tree.
Thanks Jimmy for opening up about the future of Warlock 5!
About WARLOCK 5 KICKSTARTER
Five guardians protect the multiverse against the chaos that lurks outside the boundaries of reality. There’s only one problem: they hate each other.
A mystical nexus, a crossroads connecting all times, all realities. Along the ley lines of the Grid, the multiverse clusters. To move along the Grid is to move from one reality to the next. To harness the power of the Grid is to harness the awesome might of creation.Five touchstone realities exist at focal points along the Grid. From each of these realities, a Warlock is chosen to act as one of five Guardians.
Savasthar, a shapeshifting dragon-like being.
Doomidor, a warlord from the Dark Ages.Argon, an advanced cybernetic organism from a techno-hell.
Tanith, an ageless sorceress.
Zania, a power-mad, machine gun necromancer.
Together, the Warlocks protect the Grid, thereby protecting all of space and time. They are the last line of defense against the awful forces of chaos that lurk in the darkness outside the Grid.There’s only one problem.They hate each other.”
Originally created by Gordon Derry and Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. A fierce advocate for innovation in the themes, genres, and types of illustrations, Blair helped to bring titles to life that broke the narrative and graphic boundaries at the time — including Warlock 5.
The new Warlock 5 Kickstarter funded this continuation of the Aircel Comics classic fantasy masterpiece. This 2017 reboot is written by CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY JOHNSTON, illustrated by JEFFREY EDWARDS with colors by ANDY POOLE, letters by ED DUKESHIRE, and designs by EDWARD LAVALLEE and SHAWN T. KING. This saga of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots is aiming for a 60-page full-color (hard cover) original graphic novel.
KANSAS, UNITED STATES (26th April, 2017) —
On the 26th April, Ragnarok Publications will launch a Kickstarter campaign for a reimagining of Warlock 5. Originally created by Gordon Derry & Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY Z JOHNSTON co-write this relaunched fantasy adventure while JEFFREY EDWARDS takes on the artwork with colors by ANDY POOLE.
The campaign seeks to fund the reinvention of this classic fantasy masterpiece, full of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots. The goal is to create a 60-page full-color original graphic novel with an entrancing action-packed narrative that will please both newcomers and fans of the early series.
This project is part of The Barry Blair Library, which provides a collection of approximately 300 issues and over 6000 pages of content collected from over a half-dozen publishers that Blair worked on through the 1980s and 90s. Prepare yourself to read works such as “Blood N Guts“, “Demon Hunter“, “Dragonring“, “Elflord” and “Gun Fury” for the first time in digital format.
Cullen & Johnston keep the story faithful to Blair’s work, while Edwards illustrates the most exhilarating multiverse scenes, all brought to life by Poole’s colors.
The new Warlock 5 series is something every comic fan will want.
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Ragnarok Publications, founded in 2013 by Joseph Martin and Tim Marquitz, publishes genre fiction and has released about 50 titles from dozens of authors. They specialize in genre fiction and can be reached at www.ragnarokpub.com. Outland Entertainment was founded as a creative services company in 2008 by Jeremy Mohler. Since then, Outland has worked for a wide variety of clients across the world. Outland specializes in assembling creative teams and managing projects. Contact them via their site form or go to www.outlandentertainment.com. For more information, contact Gwendolyn Nix at email@example.com or Susana Grilo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Warlock 5 is an interesting comic, with an apparently interesting story behind it.
Originally published by Aircel, written by Gordon Derry and drawn by Denis Beuavais, Warlock 5 is one of those comics that could probably only have been created in the 1980s. The opening scene of the first issue features a fight between knights and a sorcerer on one side, and robots that could charitably be said to be influenced by The Terminator movie on the side…taking place in a parking garage. Add into this mix a punk rock vixen leading a group of the undead, and a seeming sorceress along with a man who shape changes into a dragon and a barbarian carrying an assault rifles as other groups.
What is this wonderful thing?
There is a lot of violence in this first issue, which wasn’t unusual for indie comics of the time. One character is killed by having a broken spear handle shoved into their head. This obviously isn’t for everyone, but what makes Warlock 5 interesting is the fearlessness with which it mixes and bends genre conceptions.
I love a good interdimensional comic story, it is a favorite thing of mine probably since I first saw Steve Ditko’s art create surreal magical realms in early issues of Marvel’s Doctor Strange comics. On a level, this reminds me of that same sort of energy and excitement. The creators of Warlock 5 weren’t trying to duplicate those Doctor Strange stories, but I think that is why they succeeded…they weren’t trying to be derivative of other comics. Too often we see comic creators try to recapture lightning in a bottle and either copy themselves, or the works of others, in order to do that. However, one of the reasons why Aircel still lingers in the minds of so many comic fans is because of the fact that they did do their own thing and made their own, original, books and stories.
Part of why this comic appeals to me, I think, is because I play tabletop RPGs, and in a lot of ways the story comes across to me as someone’s RPG game. The ultraviolence. The bizarre mix of characters just thrown into a blender together. The disregard for genre purity. The story in Warlock 5 could have just as easily been someone telling about the game that they are playing in. I mean this in a good way.
I can easily see Warlock 5 brought to life as the setting of an RPG. It easily lends itself to that sort of thinking. Next time, I will talk a bit more about the world and the characters of the comic and draw some parallels to why I think that it might be a good game world to play in.
Check out last weeks’ posts: Barry Blair 101 by Christopher Helton, Barry Blair: What to read first? by Christopher Helton,Barry Blair’s Samurai by Christopher Helton, Elflord: Past & Future by Christopher Helton!
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.
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!
Gabe Schmidt love for Greek gods and science-fiction from an early age may have propelled this talented author into his writing path. Let’s find out a bit more of his history.
Where did you come up with the concept for Mars2577?
10 years ago, I was traveling on a trip with my parents to visit my older sister in Washington, D.C. It grew off of the fact that there’s a place on Mars called Mount Olympus, and I began to think of a sci-fi setting where Greek gods are simply rulers over different areas of life. On the long drive, I wrote down in my notebook the different roles that could be played by Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera. While I liked the setting idea, when I thought of stories, I wanted them to be about the heroes of Greek mythology living in this world created by the gods.
Did you always envision it as a webcomic?
Definitely not. It started off as a regular book. Back then, there were only three other people who read any of it. One of them, Shamus, suggested it as a comic book instead. He hooked me up with an artist he knew, but the artist was not consistent enough to get any work done beyond the slightest glimpse of concept arts. It was for the best anyway; the story has evolved a lot since then, in both my writing ability and the plot itself. I did keep my eyes open for other ways to tell the story, though, and when the chance to work with Outland Entertainment presented itself, I leapt at the opportunity.
There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?
I am honestly not familiar with the debate around digital comics. However, I have been reading webcomics for a very long time. While the first ones I read were basically daily jokes (Penny Arcade, PVP), some of them were long and developed plots with plenty of jokes so it was easy to transition from the normal webcomic group (Order of the Stick is my favorite of these, Goblins is also good). While the former had the feel of newspaper comics (with material you would never find in so public a forum), the latter felt more like normal comic books that knew how to crack a joke. I think it is inevitable that digital comics are a core part of the comic community, whether or not anyone decides to debate it along the way.
Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre? Which one?
Science Fiction has always been my absolute favorite, in both writing and reading, but I try to diversify my interests as much as I can. Vonnegut has had a lot to do with my love of science fiction, and I was reading a lot of his works when I first started getting back in to writing in high school. The ability to use science fiction as a vehicle to discuss any topic you want without the restraints of modern-day technology or world situations is something I’ve always found liberating.
What was the first thing you ever wrote?
When I was in elementary school, there was a standardized writing essay for the state or the federal standards. Don’t remember all of the details for sure, but I remember the topic was “What I Did Over Summer”. I asked the teacher if it had to be real or if it could be fake, and she said it shouldn’t matter. I wrote about how I was abducted by aliens and kept in some alien zoo. (This may explain my later attachment to Vonnegut, as something similar happens in Slaughterhouse Five.) The essays were sent away and processed by someone or some committee I’ve never met, and I received a low grade, closer to a C or C- in normal standards. The negative reinforcement discouraged me from writing for years, until I got in to high school, when I restarted my old passion. Now, of course, I realize that negative criticism is essential for becoming a better writer; when someone reads my work, I’d always rather hear what they didn’t like than just a general, “It was good!” with no further explanation.
What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?
I’m sure the very first book ever read to me was something along the lines of Dr. Seuss, and I know Goosebumps was some of my early reading. However, the first book that I specifically remember reading was Jurassic Park, after seeing the movie many times in theaters, when I was eight. I didn’t understand a lot of the scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it put me on the path to pursue that understanding, and it also gave me a good introduction to science fiction.
And comics: which were your favorite ones?
I didn’t actually start reading comics by issue until I was 16, and I’ve since gone back to reading comics by the trade instead. My top five trades, in no particular order, are Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest, Maus, Saga Vol. 1, Criminal Vol. 1 and 2, and Habibi. As far as superhero comics, in addition to Green Arrow, my favorites were the Punisher MAX series and Marvel’s 1602.
Nowadays, what can we find you reading?
My four favorite authors are Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and I inevitably go back to reading a book by one of these four between other books. Recently I’ve been trying to diversify my reading list across different subjects, from The Elegant Universe to Heart of Darkness, from The Journey to the West to Snow Crash.
Are you a person of idols?
I am. I love the gods of mythology, the heroes of stories, and the protagonists of real life. I have a tattoo of Anansi, a god of storytelling and trickery, the very type of idol that sings to my soul.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Definitely Batman, from Batman: Animated Series, and Joker, from the same. Han Solo of Star Wars and Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China.Beast from X-Men and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (There’s a chance I was always destined to be a nerd.)
And today? Who do you look up to?
It may be generic, but my parents. My dad is the embodiment of a hard worker, and he would do absolutely anything for his family. My mom was one of the first strong women (of many) that I’ve known, and helped establish that from the beginning of my life, so I’ve never struggled to write female characters with depth who are more than just a Damsel in Distress. (Or, at least if they start that way, they evolve out of that state.) My sister, Rachel Schmidt, is also on the list, as she is a successful artist out of Washington, D.C., proof that if you work hard and have an amazing amount of talent, you can go far in the creative world.
What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?
I practically grew up out of my local comic book shop. While I didn’t start my own pull list until I was 16, all of my other hobbies (card games, miniature games, roleplaying games) were played at Gatekeeper Hobbies from the age of 10 on up. I wasn’t the first one to think of putting Mars 2577 in a comic form, but I feel like the medium is both natural for the material as well as something I had been familiar with for years.
Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?
Mars 2577 is my first big project to get published, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Hopefully other projects of mine will show up before too long, but we’ll just have to see.
And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?
I always end up working on more than just one project at a time, but there is one I’m trying to channel most of my writing energy in to. The project that I am focusing on writing the most right now is called Shattered Worldsoul. It is a post-apocalyptic novel revolving around eight different characters, in a town being harassed and eventually attacked by bandits. It started as two linked short stories. The first tells the story of a man waking up in the back of a van, not remembering anything of his life from before that moment, and immediately falling in love with the woman driving the van. The second tells the story of the woman, who had lived a hard life, and who met the man when he was in love with a different woman half the world away. When he was having surgery that would cure his amnesia at the cost of triggering it one final time, she broke in and burnt all of his notebooks about the woman he originally loved, so she would be the world for him. From there it’s evolved a whole cast of characters and outlines for 66 chapters (although significantly less than that is written so far). Hopefully, when that’s finished, readers familiar with Mars 2577 will have another fun setting from me to read.
Thanks Gabe for letting us get a glimpse of your creative world!
This year, the London Book Fair celebrated Graphic Novels and as such I was gladly presented with a huge array of seminars on the topic.
[Of course, I blistered my feet running through Olympia to get from talk to talk. From Mexican culture, to the progress of VR, AR and digital publishing, passing through matters such as “Publishing for Boys & Men”, the fair managed to cover an range of subjects sure to pick anyone’s interest.]
The speakers were passionate about the discussions, laying bare preconceptions and stereotypes. From the need to establish graphic novels as an artistic medium to the more farfetched possibilities the digital format allows, all of it was thrown towards the audience in an urgent need to stir further debate.
Everyone defended this world and some have as their life goal to make Graphic Novels not frowned upon, like Neil Gibson, founder of T Pub. He currently acts as a sort of ambassador for the medium, stating it is one of the most efficient ways to communicate stories. His mission to get more people reading comics involves advocating how to use them in work and study environments.
Neil Gibson talking about the pacing of Comic books.
With Paul Gravett – renown British comic book critic – we reflected on “What can comics do that other forms can’t”. A lively overview of several international projects: “Pablo” by Julie Birmant & Clément Oubrerie, “Death of the Artist” by Karrie Fransman and “There’s No Time Like the Present” by Paul Rainey. It’s interesting to see extremely different approaches of the medium on a conceptual and visual way. From freely drawn black & white cartoons to photography and full pages reinterpretations of famous works of art, you get but a tiny scope of what the Graphic Novel really allows you to explore.
“What can comics do that other forms can’t” panel.
A final but quite controversial discussion about the digitalization of comic books left everyone still in doubt of what the future holds. Bringing together Sam Arthur from Nobrow, Sam Humphrey from SelfMadeHero, Leah Moore from Eletricomics and Russell Willis from Sequential, moderated by South London Hardcore Podcast’s Steve Walsh.
Does the reader want extra content: interviews, audio commentaries? After the early flop of motion comics it is safe to say everyone is thinking (or at least trying to) go for subtlety instead of bells and whistles.
Everybody agreed that we don’t want to disturb the readers experience. The aim is to create a new way, nearly a new medium which has graphic novels at its very core. A more immersive – but not invasive! – medium to experience stories.
“Graphic Novels go Digital” panel.
Outland Entertainment was part of the innovative addition of the Sequential app at the LBF15. The upcoming graphic novel N0.1R [created by Nicolas Giacondino and Scott Colby. writen by Colby & illustrated by Giacondino]” is an old school whodunnit starring a cast of really cool robots. Artist Nic Giacondino does an amazing job bringing both the characters and the setting to life.” Scott Colby states.
You can get N0.1R‘s preview as well as the whole catalog from #LBF15 exhibit at the Sequential app using the code LBF15 – LBF15 – LBF15.
Attendees browsing N0.1R at the Sequential app corner.
The games panels were also incredible insightful with a special shout-out to the funny and incisive Jo Twist [@doctoe] UKIE CEO and to the creative Rob Morgan [@AboutThisLater], freelance game writer and narrative designer.
Bottom line: the LBF offered insightful seminars on a varied assortment of topics. Three intense days that allow you to get an overview not only of the publishing industry but of what is being done in the whole entertainment sector.
And one cannot forget that it was the 1st London Book & Screen Week! An event that complemented the whole experience by consolidating the idea of this increasingly cross media world.
Mid-year last year, one of my personal long term clients, Goodman Games, approached Outland about doing some work on a new series of adventures they were developing based on the new 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
This was a unique opportunity because we were not only handling the illustration for the book, but we also handled all the cartography, the cover design, and the interior page design. We pretty much handled the whole package with the exception of the cover art and the interior layout.