The myth of the masked man.
I love masked vigilantes.
Justin Bartz, a scary bearded guy in Grand Rapids Michigan, had grown up building this elaborate imaginative orchestration of a half-werewolf on a quest for revenge. He wore a mask. As an adult this unrealized fantasy character began to slowly creep into the fringes of his day to day life probably as a coping mechanism from continously taking reality's punches square on the jaw. Instead of getting knocked down, the half-werewolf was there bracing the inside his head, holding out defeatism. Plotting... plotting, on turning the worm in his favor.
Justin and his friend Josh began to talk and flesh out the story at length in comic book fashion and grabbed an artist to bring Project Shadow Breed to life. Together they created a mini issue #0 and a complete proper start to the intended ongoing series with an issue #1.
This is where I enter the timeline.
As production stalled on issue #2 I got the call to take over the illustrative chores. I'd be teaching myself as I went, delivering one completed colored page everyday for six entire issues. I promised Justin that even if I broke both hands, I'd be delivering those damn pages every single day.
Justin, I quickly assesed, was an unstoppable personality in his own right. A flex of Google revealed video clips of him in fist fights and others of him out-dancing everyone on a nightclub floor. Each evening he went home to his drop-dead gorgeous wife and perfect family so his aberrance even to this day mystifies me. I listened to hours of interviews with him as he described Project Shadow Breed as being his life-long dream. Hearing this, I told him to always push me to make the comic book better and align it to the importance of his adolescent vision.
He gave me ample time to work out his characters prior to publishing and his feedback was usually "too feminine".
"I like it, but I don't love it."
Taking over the book on issue #2 was good in that many of the visual decisions had already been made, but bad in that going forward I would be handcuffed with them.
Working on a deadline I went through many stylistic wrong turns both behind the scenes and on the actual page as I plodded through learning to draw quickly and digitally as well as adapting to the tone of the characters and the world of Project Shadow Breed.
Ultimately the role that Justin wanted from his character was a similar sense of the world he felt in comics that were published in the 1990s. He and I both loved Marvel's Punisher so we arrived at the 90s Punisher type vibe. Grim violence meant for entertainment.
Once I had sent over a few issues worth of pages, Justin flipped the script on me and said that he felt like the comic was changing too much to remain reliably connected to the preceding issues #0 and #1. His solution was to combine the stories of those two comics and have me illustrate a relaunch of the whole series begining with an expanded brand new #1.
He gave me more time to really give the new #1 the deep color and design flourishes that I told him I felt the importance of the relaunch meant for myself and the whole undertaking. So, for chronology's sake, issue #2 was my first pages of comic art, followed by #3, #4, then the relaunch of #1, followed by (the yet to be released) #5 and #6.
Much of the year 2016 was spent throwing everything I had at Shadow Breed and I'm excited to see those later issues roll out because I've almost forgotten what they look like. I know that when I accepted the challenge I was budgeting six hours of my day to be dedicated to the production of the comic book. After about three issues I was becoming addicted to the accelerated pace of relentless improvement which comes from painting yourself into a corner and making page after page everyday with that deadline your only focus in the universe. Literally painting into a corner only once, as one of many endless experiments with production. About 70% of my run on Shadow Breed was actually drawn in a half-forgotten and undisturbed graveyard; no distractions.
It's still the best spot to draw. And no longer for six hours, but for sixteen.
I have the privilege in speaking to Finland's most enthusiastic spinner of yarns in the field of horror comics, Mr. Hannu Kesola. He tells us about the current state of the genre and the pitfalls of translating his stories into multiple languages. I had hoped to get a chance to speak with this very prolific creator since first devising this blog. He's such a hard worker that I can't even list half the projects that he's doing much less abbreviate the things which he's done. Suffice it to say that writing for Heavy Metal was a great moment in his career. And we didn't even get to his second career as an inker.
I get a chance to talk with Eric Callahan who's somber and moody noir images caught my attention last year as he geared up to produce his pioneering effort in self-made digital comics Pete and Black Duck. He calls it "an independent online graphic story" told in three installments, but when you see what Callahan has up his sleeve you're going to understand my fascination with his attack on the medium.
It's a fiercely independant Twilight Zone dessert from a set of fresh eyes.
Drop in to peteandblackduck.com where you can get access to a free promo of the first episode and get in good with Callahan by buying the whole online comic experience replete with guided-view goodness and pops of animation.
Don't miss him in only one week, right here on the Comix Voodoo Hayride.