The Freedom Found in Webcomics
Animefringe sits down to talk with Jason Martin, penciller and inker of various American comic books about life, art and Faolain, the webcomic.
Many fans of manga and comics dream of one day drawing the very comics that they read, and sometimes, with a lot of hard work and luck, their dream comes true. However, every journey begins with that first step. Animefringe sat down recently with talented artist Jason Martin to talk about comics, drawing, and the unique opportunity that a webcomic affords the artist looking to break into the business.
As an inker for several well-known comic books for a wide variety of companies (Wildstormís Thundercats, Marvelís Livewires, Dark Horseís Grendel: Black, White & Red, Image Comicís Battle Chasers, to name a few titles) and a guest at this yearís Nan Desu Kan with a panel on inking, Jason Martin has experienced life from both sides of the table: being a fan and an aspiring artist, and as a professional artist giving advice to newcomers looking for ways to break into the industry.
His illustration work spans outside of the realm of comics, with work on RPG books for White Wolf and Green Ronin, as well as merchandise, advertisement, magazine and website art for various professional clients. You can find his one of his most recent works at newsstands everywhere with his pin-up illustration (a co-operative artistic effort with his equally talented wife, Heather) of Alishia Dragoon in Play Magazineís Girls of Gaming V.3.
Animefringe/Janet Crocker: When did you start reading comics?
Jason Martin: It was around the early 80ís.
AF: What was the first comic that you remember reading?
JM: I was crazed for the ĎShogun Warriorsí toys, and Marvel had released a comic based on them that I remember reading. However, what made the big impact on me was G.I. Joe #11.
AF: You got started in the comic book industry in 1994; how did you get started?
JM: 1993-1994 was the official time that I started, but I had been around it a couple years prior. At one point, I was contemplating moving out to Los Angeles to pursue a special effects career, or get started in comic books. The latter had been my dream since I was kid. Both of these seemed nearly impossible, since I lived in a very small town and had no connections. However, once I started attending DragonCon in Atlanta (and showing my portfolio around), I made some comic book connections and eventually joined a studio.
AF: What past works are you particularly proud of? Any favorites?
JM: Any work I did with Adam Hughes or Ed McGuinness Iím proud of. My all-time favorite was working with Joe Madureira on Battle Chasers ...like many others, I wish it wouldnít have ended.
AF: During this past year, you worked with Adam Warren on Livewires. Many of our readers are familiar with him through his work on the OEL Dirty Pair manga, as well as generally introducing a lot of comic readers to the manga art style. Does a manga-inspired comic require any different inking techniques?
JM: Concerning inking, I wouldnít say it does (and Adam Warren would probably say otherwise). †I generally base my inking style on the penciller. An inker is only as good as his penciller (unless you start redrawing things for him, at which point you become a finisher).
AF: Do you see the current fascination with manga and anime in America as something that we will look back at as a short trend in comics (i.e. social issue comics during the 80's, and the early 90's variant cover boom and crash), or as part of the evolution of comics over time as a whole?
JM: Itís anything but a trend, and itís causing quite a divide in American comics. As the comic book industry evolves, so do the fans. Really, itís the fans that dictate the future of any entertainment, and comics are no exception. If there is a trend in comics right now (and when I say Ďcomicsí, Iím talking about American comics), itís a push for more realistic looking books. Superhero books are still the big sellers, and the guy who buys them is in his 30ís. †(When was the last time you saw a Ďkidí read a comic book?) †These guys donít want to see anything but what they are accustomed to. Livewires is a good example of this: †it came out to great reviews, but the sales were lackluster. Marvel didnít seem to know how to market the book at all. Interestingly enough, the series has been collected into a trade paperback now and printed in a nifty manga-size. Maybe it will see more fans and better sales in this version.
AF: Your wife, Heather is a great illustrator and colorist in her own right. How do you balance your personal relationship with your professional one? Do you have distinct jobs in who does what on a project? Who has the final word?
JM: We are a team every step of the way. Giving credit is a little bit difficult since we overlap each otherís duties. While I handle the pencilling and shading, Heather is the forerunner on the story and runs the website. Iím handling the forums and the overall feel of the website, although Heather knows me so well that this isnít even a problem. Honestly, itís just teamwork every step, and that includes the relationship side as well.
I should also note that even though [Faolain] is a manga-style book with no color, Heather will be handling the coloring of special pieces coming out in the future. So her beautiful colors will feature prominently, especially in print.
AF: Recently, you've had a lot of commissions for pin-up art, especially for video games. How did you get into it?
JM: It found us, actually. After we launched our online portfolio (Artplaymix.com), we began getting offers from all kinds of various publications. The assistant Art Director of Official Playstation Magazine was a fan of ours and simply emailed us. Weíve done quite a bit of work for them since that time, and this lead to other magazine-related jobs.
AF: How important are conventions for promotion?
JM: Very. Other than the Internet, itís the best way to show off what you have been up to.
AF: Do you have any tips for artists who want to get into comics? Where can you start?
JM: It takes extreme dedication to be in comics. You wonít get a contract, you wonít get benefits, and in the early days, you will barely get paid. There are so many routes that lead to getting in. What it all comes down to is talent. Letís say you have a talent for penciling, and someone (an editor or publisher) feels they will make money by having you draw Spiderman... then youíre in. Iíve done many portfolio reviews, and tell all artists the same thing: convince the company that your art can make them money. A company will always want to make money, not lose it.
AF: You've just started a webcomic of your own called Faolain, available at www.faolaincomic.com. Why a webcomic?
JM: I love the idea of webcomics. You are given complete control to do whatever you want to do. You can reach people all over the world, and you can access it from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Whatís not to like?
AF: Can you give us a hint at the story of Faolain?
JM: I donít know how long the entire story will be, but we have a long one planned. The summary can be found on the website, and you are just getting the very tip of the mountain at the moment. †Faolain is in for some interesting changes!
AF: Can you tell us about the characters in Faolain? Goldifox is so cute!
JM: I donít want to reveal too much, but we will be meeting quite an interesting cast as we go along. If you are familiar with my tastes and design style (and find them appealing), you wonít be disappointed. Goldifox is already a fave. Thatís one special dog ^_-.
AF: What inspired Faolain? Any folktales in particular?
JM: Heather and I come up with ideas all the time, and weíve talked about doing a comic/manga forever. I mentioned how Iíve always loved the imagery of Red Riding Hood and would love to do a story based on its themes. However, the story and world come from what we enjoy in our entertainment.
AF: What is the mood that you are aiming for?
JM: Something mysterious, wicked, cute and sexy. The story will have a mix of adventure, comedy and drama.
AF: How much of the story is plotted out already?
JM: I know what beats I want to hit and when. The moments between those beats grow constantly, so itís hard to pinpoint an accurate number.
AF: Will Faolain be collected and published eventually, or do you intend to keep it online only?
JM: Ultimately, that is the goal, though it will remain online as well. As we have been going to various conventions, Iíve asked fans what they would like. They seem to want both, which is fine by me.
AF: Any final thoughts for our readers?
JM: I want to make it little more clear as to why we decided on doing a webcomic (since I do †have so many connections to the comic world). Ever since I picked up the pencil, my goal has been to draw things that †I would be a fan of. The webcomic is exactly this. It gives Heather and I the freedom to pursue our ideas to the fullest. Thereís no middlemen here dictating the way they feel your idea should go. Itís freedom and itís wonderful.
Interested in seeing more of Jason and Heather Martinís work? Drop by their online portfolio at Artplaymix.com and Heatherís personal portfolio, COVETED. Keep up to date with the adventures of Faolain at FaolainComic.com, with a new comic page each Monday!