Where were you born? Where did you grow up? I was born in Quantico, Virginia, on December 4th, 1960 and grew up on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Delaware and New Jersey, before moving to Montreal when my father took his professorial position at McGill University in 1971. I have lived in Montreal ever since. Schooling? Art training? After graduating from Macdonald High School in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, I earned a Creative Arts degree at John Abbott College (CEGEP, a 2-year pre-university programme), followed by a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. I graduated in 1982.
My interest in figure drawing is primarily rooted in comics, which I discovered at the age of 10.
I consider myself mostly self-taught in that respect, although when I started at Marvel, Conan editor Larry Hama gave me many valuable pointers that I keep in mind to this day. I had a session with Mike Golden in the late 90's as well.
How long have you been working professionally in comics? My first job was in 1982, and my last Marvel assignment was in 1999, although I have done a covers and pages for small publishers since then.
What things -- both in art and otherwise -- have you worked on, besides comics? Are comics a full-time gig for you or part-time? In 1998 I took the opportunity to break into the movie business as Montreal was experiencing a kind of boom. My first job was doing concept illustrations for Patrick Tatopoulos (Godzilla, Independence Day) on Battlefield Earth.
Despite the limited success of that movie I learned a lot about the movie biz form him. Since then I have worked on over 25 projects, including Timeline, Gothika, The Reagans and last year Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. I have divided my time between concept art and storyboards.
Talk about how you broke into the business --was it easy? Hard? Ups? Downs? Any interesting anecdotes? When you held your first published work in your hands, how did you feel? When I was 16 and our family was taking one of our usual trips to Maryland from Montreal we drove into Manhattan.
My parents and two siblings waited in the car while I went up to the Marvel offices. I met with Dave Cockrum and Marie Severin who both encouraged me to keep drawing and to try again.
I sent samples in over the next 6 years, and shortly after university was over my current sample batch landed me my first job, a 9-page b&w story in Bizarre Adventures. That led nowhere, so that fall I tried DC, and was hired to pencil, and then ink, a story for New Talent Showcase.
Things stalled again, so the following spring I went to New York, and decided to stay for a while after meeting Rich Buckler , who was then installed at Archie doing superhero comics for them.
As it turned out I did very little assistant work with him, tightening up pencils, that sort of thing, because a meeting with Ralph Macchio resulted in a fill-in for Daredevil #221, then another on for PowerMan/Iron Fist #107. Following that I met with Larry Hama , editor of Conan The King, ended up doing full art on issue #22, then stayed on to ink that book.
After that I was employed pretty well full-time.
The comics industry was booming, so there was plenty of work for artists. Only in the late 90's, during the infamous slow-down, did the work situation begin to get tight. At this point I decided to take that opportunity to develop some of my own dream goals (like my futuristic adventure Lincoln-16) as well as try my hand at movie work.
Did you work as an assistant to any other artists? If so, please talk a bit about those experiences. As I mentioned I worked for Rich Buckler, but only for about a week.
How did your parents take to the idea of working in comics? They were not sure about me going into art in general until after high school, suggesting that I aim for a teaching career. But I was too determined to make the comics career work, and they were always supportive with that.
Years later, whenever a guest happened to ask what his children did for a living, my father would jokingly raise his eyebrows and exclaim: "One son is a comic book artist, the other plays bass in a rock band. What'd I do?" How would you describe your workspace? Is it part of your home, or do you go "to the studio"? My studio has always been a room in either our apartment or house. I wanted to avoid the bother of having to commute to a studio: working at home can be handy if one should happen to get one of those 1 a.m. brainstorms.
What job are you the proudest of? What's your most embarrassing? I have to say that I was happiest with some of my Conan work, especially Conan The Savage #'s 5 and 6 when I did a fully-toned b&w story with no deadline.
I also enjoyed inking The 'Nam because of the historical aspects. Embarrassing? There were some lame panels in my early work, and some stories were given to inkers who rushed the jobs or were printed in a mediocre fashion. Of course, the publication of my own Lincoln-16 issues 1 and 2 represent a high point in 1997.
What are you currently drawing? Comments on that project? Right now I am concentrating on a Graphic Novel for children called Lani The Leopard Queen. I've been working on it in fits and spurts between other assignments, but I'm hoping to complete it by September of this year.
I have other Graphic Novel ideas, all completely unrelated to one another. The third part of Lincoln-16 must also be completed and there is another project, a fantasy called Erox, whose characters are becoming rather well-known to collectors. I've also got an American Splendour-like, anecdote-packed story called Krudge. As you can see, all my creative burners are on high.
Talk about your Family: Parents, siblings, home situation. Are you Married? Have kids? Anecdotes about married life, how it relates to your busy schedule, etc. If you have kids do they understand your job? What do they say about it? Do they read comics? I am married to writer and artist Sonja Skarstedt, who I met when we were 17. Perhaps because we understood where we were each coming from, art- and otherwise, we happened to hit it off and have been together ever since.
Fortunately we have similar liberal, sometimes hilarious, viewpoints about life. She is my partner in crime, and also my muse. I am also her muse. Amusing, no?
We are 'cat people' at heart, and have two critters, Ubi and Phyllis Djuna, who keep us on our toes. Ubi tries to sit on my art while I'm drawing, chew my pencil, and bite the corner of my pages. Observing these critters, it is no wonder I came up with the idea for Lani, a young teen who discovers she has the ability to turn into a leopard.
What projects do you hope to work on in the future? Well, outside of my Graphic Novels, I have not really pursued regular comics work that much. Movie work has kept me fairly busy, and I do a lot of commissions. Where do you see yourself in five years? ten? Ideally I will be able to finish and have published my GNs. I am prepared for sequels, and somewhere down the road I can see a film adaptation as a distinct possibility, live-action or animated, especially of Lani. It is also one of my dreams to direct a film one day.
What is the interest in comics where you live? Do friends and neighbors know you draw comics for a living? How do they react? "Are you the guy who draws Batman?" Most people are at least familiar with superheroes, and a few read comics. Movies are a different matter: everyone has an opinion, and are curious to hear any anecdotes I might have about Travolta, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, etc.
I have met them briefly, but work primarily with directors or production designers, so most of what I can pass on involves special effects and the like. It's generally known I do movie work and draw comics. There have been a number of occasions where someone, usually a very young artist, comes to observe me at work. Before long, most people say they could not handle sitting at a drawing board for so many hours.
Plus, they often get a little leery when they see all the reference material (helicopters, cars, architecture, etc). But it's where I'm most comfortable! Besides, Montreal tends to be like New York: people like to play it cool when meeting anyone in the entertainment or sports field. I think that's one of the reasons why actors like coming here to work. There's also the fact that this is a real "party town" in the summer: jazz and other festivals, the Pride and Caribbean parades, bars and cafés that spill over into the street.
What's 1 thing you'll always find in your refrigerator? Lunch!
What's your favorite food? I enjoy a number of things: Indian, Chinese, BBQ chicken, and never leave out a good old sizzling American steak! I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but always enjoy lemon meringue pie. Yo, Clint!
What are your favorite interests --Movies? Music? TV? Any hobbies? Sports? I enjoy movies, but due to work schedules I often don't see new releases right away. I listen mostly to jazz now, but like rock, blues, and some techno.
I play basketball a couple of times a week, go swimming regularly, like golf (not much time for that these last few years), and will jump in to most any other game I come upon. I'll watch sports on TV to relax - vive le Grand Prix! -- but not poker! What's that all about, anyway? But my favorite interest will always be art, and as I get further on in life I feel an increasing fascination with all mediums. I look forward to spending more time drawing, painting - and sculpting.
Have you ever thought of writing your own stories? When working at Marvel I wrote issues of Justice and Dr. Strange, and prefer to write my own material whenever possible.
One of my favorite moments was the creation of Kyllian Kells (Dr Strange Annual No 2, DS #57-59, circa 1991-92), a young orphaned Celt with raised tattoos that move when he touches them to call forth their elemental powers.
That being said, I am happy to collaborate with others when there's a good story to be told.
Ever been in a gang? No, I tend to have friends who consider themselves independent.
What's an average day in your life like? Walk us through a typical day. I wake up early and ease into things doing emails, checking out the sports scores, reading and such. I start into work at 9 or so, break for lunch, back to work, take a break to throw the basketball around or get together with a friend, then back to the drawing table for a pre-supper stint. I don't do much art after supper unless there's a tight deadline.
Any humorous or interesting anecdotes to tell about the comics business? I haven't made any particularly close friends in the biz, but enjoyed the generally fun atmosphere when visiting Marvel's offices and chatting with some of the stalwarts there during the 80's and 90's.
Do you have any great, unsold projects in your files that nobody's gotten to see published? I mentioned before the Graphic Novels I am working on, which I imagine will be foisted upon the public before too long.
If you weren't a comic-book artist today, what would you be? I might have gone into teaching, but most likely, would have gone into movie work at a much younger age.
Have you taught comic-book art or had any assistants? If so, talk about that. I have only had an assistant on a couple of occasions, and have looked at, commented on portfolios a number of times. I have also made classroom presentations on a number of occasions. I don't hold back, preferring to offer whatever advice I may have in the same direct manner in which it was given to me.
The single thing you'd most like to be remembered for in your life is...? I suppose this would be for work that I have yet to do, my own creative endeavors. I aim to give appreciators and collectors something they can enjoy for many years to come.
Any closing words for your fans? I feel that my years at Marvel and DC, along with my movie work, will turn out to have been an integral part of the preparation for my future achievements.
So hold on to your hats, true believers! Excelsior!
Conan The Barbarian Conan The King Dr. Strange Namor The 'Nam Swords Of The Swashbucklers The Suicide Squad (DC) Justice fill-ins on Spectacular Spider-Man Avengers Thor Fantastic Five X-Men Annual Daredevil