Posts Tagged ‘Comic Geek Speak’

This month, Super Show Approved had the chance to catch up with Zack Kruse, creator of The Contingent and Mystery Solved!.

I know your book The Contingent has some pretty mainstream elements in it. Could you tell me a little about the series and where you find your inspiration?

Without question, Steve Ditko is my number one source of inspiration. Once I started working on this series and shaping the characters personalities, he became my primary source of inspiration. Steve created VERY distinct characters. You always knew where you stood with his heroes. Conversely, you never knew where you stood with his antagonists—it was commonly a grey area for them and the grey area is ultimately what led them to villainy. Those are fascinating story elements to deal with, I think, and Steve was a master at it.

Inspiration aside, really, I just wanted to write a story and create characters that I would enjoy reading. Doing that has really helped me create an emotional bond with each of the characters and that bond really fuels my writing.

Do you find it tough writing mainstream comics for the indie crowd?

Umm, I don’t know. Haha. To be perfectly honest, I never really ever factored that in. Really, my intent with the series was never to make it an indie book or a mainstream book.

I mean, like I had said before, I really just write stories that I know I would enjoy reading. I’m kind of the opinion that once your start creeping your way into that mode of “I’m writing for this crowd” or “I create comics that this appeal to this group of fans”, you can really pigeon hole yourself as a creator and you end up running the risk of creating just to please someone else. Ultimately that I can make people jaded and will lead to substandard work. At least that’s how I look at.

So I’ve always been a proponent of doing your own thing, because that’s what will make you the happiest. If you’re happy creating, you’ll create more, and you may just hit on something great.

How many issues do you have planned?

50. That’s how many are plotted out and I intend to completely end the series after that. As it stands, after issue 6 we’re going to put out the trade and then take a hiatus from the book to get some other projects rolling and knocked out. But we’ll be moving forward with the book again soon, hopefully some time in 2011.

What mainstream books are you enjoying right now?

There are a lot that I’ve really been enjoying; Incredible Hercules has been fantastic and so has DC’s R.E.B.E.L.S. There’s other consistently good titles like Jonah Hex, Agents of Atlas, Punisher, and Batman and Robin. Not mention all of the incredible titles that are coming out from DC’s Vertigo imprint.

But really, that’s just a handful of the mainstream books I read.

Any indies catch your eye lately?

Oh, yeah. TONS! I love reading indies, just for the simple fact that there is always something new and it’s almost always honest. Quite frankly, I don’t care who publishes a particular comic, I just want it to be good. And if it’s produced honestly, it’s more than likely going to be good. You can pretty much bet on the fact that the people behind those books are doing it for the love of the content and/or the medium.

Last year my two favorite books to come out were, by far and away, Skyscrapers of The Midwest and Asterios Polyp. Both are fantastic, emotionally resonating books that I think every comic fan should read. I’ve really been digging Chew and Phil Hester’s The Anchor and, of course RASL has just been great to read, too. 

Indie/creator owned comics have sort of become my bread and butter over the past few years. There is some really great stuff out there that people NEED to read, but they don’t give it a second glance because it doesn’t have that big Marvel or DC logo in the upper left corner. One of the great things about comics, and indies in particular, is that there really is something for everyone. It’s just a matter of taking that first step.

Mystery Solved! Is shaping up to be a really great webstrip. What circumstances led you to decide on a rotating lineup of artists?

Thank you! I think it’s shaping up rather nicely as well.

Rotating artists was born of necessity. The primary circumstance that led to the rotating team of artists is my own inability to draw. I can do some humorous doodles, but in order to bring the stories to life, I needed real talent. The bad news for me was a lot of the artists that I wanted to work with, you included, have other projects going and their own projects going.

So it occurred to me that by approaching all of these artists, whose work I admire, I’m able to work with some outstanding talent, get some really great looking stories, and (hopefully) able to work within each of their schedules as well. The bonus to all of that is that each story has its own personality.

Do you create your stories with certain artists in mind, or do you seek out artists after a story is written?

It’s sort of a mixed bag. There are some scripts that I have complete and ready to go and there are others that I don’t really start to put together until after an artist has signed on. For example, I’ll approach artist A and say I have these story ideas, do you think that you would enjoy working any of these? Once they sort of let me know their preference I’ll either start constructing a new script with them in mind. Or, if they choose a story where the script is already written, I’ll take that existing script and tweak it as necessary. 

Mystery Solved! Is all about Colonel Winchester debunking urban legends and the supernatural. Will he ever come across a mystery he can’t solve?

Haha. Probably not. I am a pretty big skeptic and my primary goal with the series is to go about debunking each of these urban myths or bits of mysticism that the Colonel encounters. Skepticism is often confused with cynicism and I hope I’m able to diffuse that with Mystery Solved! and present readers with a more rational, empirical, outlook for the phenomenon that the Colonel encounters.

I make a pretty concerted effort with each strip to research the topic and find out what the real scientific consensus is, find actual stories, and so on, and then present that information in a humorous way. 

I hate to put you on the spot, but other than me (ha!), who have you enjoyed working with the most?

Honestly, everyone who has turned in work to me so far has been nothing short of fantastic. I mean that with all sincerity. Jim Miller did some great character designs based on my descriptions, and really helped establish the world. You turned in a great looking story with some great work on the panel layouts, Andy Jewett has turned in some really nice looking preliminary work, and Dave Wachter…well wait’ll you get a load of Dave’s pages.

I’ve been very fortunate with the people I’ve been able to work with and I’m forever grateful to all of them. On the other hand, I feel at least a little bad for the people who have to follow them…

If you could pick one artist to work with on your dream project, who would it be?

Ditko. Doing a Blue Beetle/Question story with Steve Ditko is the dream that will never come true, but I fantasize about constantly.

What about Super Show are you looking forward to the most?

Getting together with friends. That’s always my favorite part…

For more information on all of Zack’s projects, visit www.mysterysolvedcomic.com, and be sure to drop by his table at the Super Show!

We’ll be back soon with another 100% Super Show Approved interview. Join us, won’t you?


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A very special thanks to Ed Chambers aka Ghostwriter on The Comic Forums for sponsoring 100% Super Show Approved artist Erica Hesse for the 2010 Super Show! Ed’s generous donation helps make Erica’s trip to Reading, PA possible, and the SSA group is extremely grateful!

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100% Super Show ApprovedErica HesseThis week, 100% Super Show Approved got a chance to sit down with ‘The Key’ creator, pin-up artist extraordinaire, Erica Hesse for a little Q&A.

 Hey Erica, let’s take a page out of the Comic Geek Speak interview book… what was the first comic book you ever bought?

I think the very first comic book I ever bought for myself was an Archie comic. I can’t remember the exact issue, or even what the title was.  But I do know I used to go to a news agency every week. I would check out and buy the latest Archie comics.  I used to have stacks and stacks of them, in digest format.  I think most of the ones I was drawn to were about Betty and Veronica.


Erica Hesse, Pin-up Queen! What about comics do you find most appealing?What I find most appealing about comics is the art. The way the art is drawn in the comic is very important, color and  the overall mood of a comic,  too. I like when a story takes its time being told, gets me so lost in the story, (so much so) that I’m not even aware of what’s going on around me. If I’m in my own little world when I read a comic, then the comic has done its job (laughs).  That’s what I find most appealing about comics, the art. The art has to draw me in first before I can delve in. The story always comes second. It could be the greatest story every told, but if the art doesn’t appeal to me first in the slightest bit, I won’t read it.

What is your favorite comic series, past or present?  

It’s hard to pinpoint one series, so I will pick Joe Linsner’s “Lucifer’s Halo”. This comic series tested my openness in subject matter when it came to comics. I would always avoid comics that touched on religion.

I didn’t pick it up at first, but the comic kept crossing my path from time to time. So one of those times, I figured what the heck; I’ll give it a read. The comic is about Heaven, Hell and what falls in between. It sounds so cookie cutter when I describe it, but it’s far from that. For me it was an entertaining and thought provoking read. The art on the comic covers were what attracted me at first, and the interior art really drew me in. I found this series during a time when I was getting back into comics, so this is probably one of the reasons it sticks in my head to this day. Now when I think about it, it was really silly of me to think that I was avoiding all these great comics on what I thought comics should be written about.  In a way, this comic helped me to not fear my own ideas when it came to developing my own comics.

Roller Derby at its best!How long have you been drawing and who/what was your main inspiration for picking up the pencil?

There are actually two answers to this question. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I can’t remember how young I was, but I do remember doing a kick-ass finger painting in kindergarten. Maybe it all started from there (laughs). I do remember drawing, being inspired by comics I was reading at the time… copying the characters line for line– stuff that kids start out doing before they develop their own style. My main inspiration growing up was Dan DeCarlo. I read a lot of Archie comics, so naturally I was inspired by him. Dan DeCarlo’s art, especially in the the late 50’s and 60’s was and still is amazing. The way he illustrated women, drew me in. The wasp-ish waist, the curvy hips, and the sexy yet innocent faces. It wasn’t until many years later I learned that he did a lot of illustration work for Humorama, a men’s humor magazine. I would say his work played a huge influence on my art even as of today.

And the second start?

There was a period in my life where I stopped drawing and collecting comics. I think this was in the early 90’s during the huge comics boom. I was collecting all kinds of comics during the height of it all. I collected all the variants and number one issues, so much I think I got burned out. I became so disgusted with how comics were becoming, how I was allowing myself to be a part of that, and slowly stopped collecting them.  I even stopped drawing without even realizing it. It was such a slow progression. I didn’t even realize I had turned away from what I loved doing most, until it was too late to care. This went on for about six years (I’m guessing) and while I was on vacation, I popped into a comic store, Golden Apple Comics, in Los Angeles for kicks. Honestly, I hadn’t stepped foot in a comic store in years.

The Key #2 will be available at the CGS Super Show!

The Key #2 will be available at the CGS Super Show!

I’m from New Jersey, so comic stores pretty much disappeared after the whole 90’s thing. I stepped in and was amazed how big the store was. I remember there being a huge wall of comics and being awed by all of them. I looked through some of them and was immediately drawn in to some of the art. I remember I was looking at Michael Turner’s Witchblade, Randy Queen’s DarkChylde, and Joe Linsner’s Dawn 10th Anniversary comic.  I kept staring at this red haired woman on the cover and was really inspired by it.  So inspired, during that week I went out and bought some pencil and paper at a small art store and started sketching again.

Which artists do you feel most influence your style?

If there was one artist I could say that influences my style , it would be Dan DeCarlo. 

Other artists that inspire me (in no particular order)are George Petty, Gil Elvgren, Alberto Vargas, Olivia, Linsner, Alphonse Mucha, Terry Dodson, Coop, Mark Ryden, Tara McPherson, the list could go on and on!

Art Geek Time: let’s talk about the process of creating the perfect pin-up. Do you use models? Do you tend to pencil a lot or do you add detail in the inks? Has the computer changed the way you produce art?

I don’t think there is a “definitive” process that I use to create a perfect pin-up. I’m always trying new things here and there, still trying to improve my craft. I think it all depends on what I think the end result (the look) should be. I don’t use live models for my art, (would love to but just don’t have the time) but I do tend to use photo reference here and there. When I do use photo reference, it’s mainly for the pose, or if I need to see how a hand should lay for example. Sometimes I even get my camera and take pictures of myself for reference. Most of the time, I just draw it from scratch, straight out of my head.

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 1

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 1

My start out point is always the same, I always, always start out in pencil. On the rare occasion, I will sketch it right in the computer using my Wacom tablet. But 99% of the time I start out in pencil. I start out with a basic frame, sketching in circles/shapes for the head, shoulders, arms, and rest of the body. From there I start sketching in the form (the body) of the figure. I have to get the figure down pat first, before I start adding in the details. My first instinct is to illustrate the face, which I love to do, but is an extremely bad habit on my part. Once I have the figure fleshed out, I then can start adding in the details. At this point I start on the face, details of the clothing, etc. I always do all my details in pencil. It’s when I start inking my pin-up I can determine which lines to edit out. After I ink it, that’s where the next step comes in, color. Depending if it’s a personal commission or something that needs to be printed, the color is done either traditionally or digitally.

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 2

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 2

Using the computer has changed the way I produce art over the years. Years ago, I would have never thought I could produce art digitally. I was hell bent on doing everything traditionally. But as the years progressed, and as I learned different programs, I could see what benefits it had, so I had a change of heart.  Using the computer is a  another great medium that artists can utilize to produce art faster, and still stay true to your style. For me, it will never replace producing art traditionally, it’s just another medium I can utilize to create great art.

I know ‘The Key’ is your baby… when are we getting the next issue?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked when the next issue will be out (laughs) I would be rich!  No really, people have a right to ask. I even ask myself, when is the next issue coming out, girl? It’s been way too long!  Get off your ass, and draw some comics!! 

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 3

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 3

Not to make excuses, but my comic is a one woman show. It’s really hard to produce a comic if I’m determined to do everything myself from start to finish. I don’t think people realize when I say that: I do all the  pencils, the inks, the colors, the layout, the text . All of it is done by me. The only thing I don’t do is write it. I’ll  make suggestions here and there, but that’s one job I leave up to Chris (Holt).

Chris and I also felt that the first issue was a bit rushed. It was the first time either of us had done anything like this, but that’s what it’s all about– learning as you go. So I think with this second issue I’ve taken more time in developing how the art will look, quality wise, as opposed to “Oh my God, I have to hurry! The comic has to be done by this date! People are waiting for it, and I promised!”

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 4

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 4

So no more promises! Well, maybe just one more, I did make a tentative schedule of when each issue will be available for pre-order. Issue two will be available for pre-order end of November/beginning of December. After that, expect each issue to be available for pre-order every three-four months.

Any plans for more comics work?

I haven’t done anything else as of late because I really want to get “The Key” series done first. Some people think I’m crazy for not taking other offers, but I need to do what is best for me right now. I have talked with different writers here and there, and there are projects I really want to work on, I just choose not to right now.

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 5

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 5

Nerdiest thing you’ve done all year? Details, girlfriend!

The only thing I can think of is the New York ComicCon. For me that’s the ultimate nerd-fest. My being at a comic convention is like giving sugar to a five year old. I am literally in my own zone. It’s bad, but I get so overwhelmed by trying to get to everything I want to check out, I forget if anyone is with me.  I met up with my friend Deb at the show, and she said I was like a person with A.D.D.! I (unintentionally) didn’t meet up with her at certain locations because I got so lost in seeing everything and wanting to do everything at once! So if you ever want to hang out with me, a comic convention would not be the place to hang out.

How did you find Comic Geek Speak and how long have you been listening?A guy named Joe Janz emailed me about my art and somehow through the course of emailing back and forth, he mentioned Comic Geek Speak to me. He told me it was a cool show, it was about comics, and should take a listen to it. I didn’t even know what a podcast was before that. So you could say I was a pod cast virgin (laughs)! Comic Geek Speak was my first!  I checked out the show, and have been listening to them ever since. I think I started listening in October of 2006. Really great show, really glad that he suggested it to me! Thanks Joe!

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 6

PREVIEW: The Key #2, Page 6


 What are you most looking forward to at the Super Show?

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again, it’s been way too long! I feel like we’re one big group of friends at the Super Show. It’s awesome. Is it here yet?

For more information on Erica Hesse and her work, visit: http://hesse-art.com/ and look for The Key #2 at the Super Show!

Come back soon for another spotlight on one of your favorite 100% Super Show Approved creator.


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