Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fireside Chat With Justin Greenwood

Time for another warming chat by the Weekly Crisis Fireside, as we sip on oversized mugs full of hot milky liquid and chat to top shelf comic talent in a relaxed, less formal atmosphere than the distinguished competition. We aim to be personal as well as informative. And with aim in mind we now fire away.

Today’s guest is Justin Greenwood, the current artist on the Oni Press title Resurrection. We’ll chat about how many pitches it takes to get Oni's attention, presidents wielding knives strapped to saxophones, and which podcast helps you draw better. If you like the discussion go and follow Justin on his blog, East Bay Ink Stains, as he often scoops out some art for the fans.

Full interview after the jump!

Justin Greenwood is the artist for the Marc Guggenheim penned Resurrection from Oni. Issue 8 hit stands a few weeks ago and we now find ourselves in the middle of an arc about the Church of the Cosmos. Things are getting serious for our alien invasion survivor protagonists, one of which is Bill Clinton.

Ryan K Lindsay: Hey Justin, how are you today, mate?

Justin Greenwood: Fantastic buddy, thanks for asking. How about you?

RKL: I’m pretty damn good, always nice to have another pro sit down by the hearth. The first question, the one I feel it is pertinent to lead with, is how would you quickly describe Resurrection as a title?

Greenwood: Resurrection is a book about people trying to put life back together after Aliens invaded and bombed the planet to hell for ten years straight.

Since the series has started, we’ve been following a group that has recently encountered Bill Clinton (the last president of the United States) and have taken it upon themselves to take care of him, although they’ve run into quite a bit of trouble along the way.

And believe me, it’s only gonna get worse…

RKL: Resurrection had a first arc, or Book as you’re calling them, with artist David Dumeer, but then it took a breather to come back with you at the helm of the art duties.  What kind of emotions do you go through when you’re placed on the relaunch of a pretty big title for Oni?

Greenwood: I was pumped! I’m a new face to the industry and after meeting James Lucas Jones (EIC for Oni) at a convention and talking to him for a bit, it was pretty clear that he had a project in mind for me to draw but I didn’t know which one at first.

I thought I was going to get a pitch or script in the mail, but instead I received the floppies of Resurrection Volume 1 and I couldn’t have been more excited- it was right up my alley and it was definitely something that I would want to draw. I feel a real debt of gratitude to James for giving me a shot and he’s been overwhelmingly supportive of me since I started drawing for them.
RKL: You’re a new entity to the comic world, this is your first major gig, how does it feel to rake in the fat cash, fame, and free mugs of Weekly Crisis Imitation ChocMallowGruel for doing what you love?

Greenwood: ChocMallowGruel, is that what this is? Tastes like Everclear...

RKL: What were you doing before you got a permanent comic gig?

Greenwood: I attended college at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and was at a crossroads for what aspect of illustration I wanted to pursue (most of which being much more lucrative and a lot easier to break into). Comics was my first love though, and was unquestionably the reason I started drawing in the first place. As much as I liked reading them, I didn’t understand them yet as a business, and I spent a couple years building a portfolio and learning how all of the pieces fit together.

RKL: For all of those people meeting you for the first time right now in this chat, what would you like to say to them?

Greenwood: Being that this will be online, I’d ask ya’ll to check out my blog- (yes, that is a shameless plug). From there, you can have a look at my art, upcoming issues, see a bunch of rough work, and link over to Marc and Oni’s sites to stay up to date on what’s happening with the book.

Also, if you are new to Resurrection, you can catch up by picking up the new Deluxe Edition TPB that contains the original series, annual, FCBD issue, and the first six issues of the new arc, weighing in at a massive 368 pages. It hits stands March 10th, which is today (shameless plug #2). BooYah!

Also, I’m madly in love with my wife. I like long walks in the park. Old cars. Drugs. You know, the usual.

RKL: Wow, there really was no shame as you said any of that, ha. How much work had you pitched previously before finding a home at Oni? Do you write at all as well as draw?

Greenwood: I’ve written some, although I’m not nearly as comfortable with it as I am drawing. I started by pitching around a series written by my friend and collaborator Dave Dwonch, which was pretty well received by editors but was a little too ambitious in scope for a couple of new guys.

I’d also been working on a crime book at the time, and after taking in all of the feedback I’d received, I had put together a pitch and started taking it around to conventions. I showed the new pages to Oni, who liked my work and told me that they had a book that I might be right for. A few bribes and a little bit of blackmailing and here I am…

RKL: The story in Resurrection has taken the gang of survivors of an alien invasion and shown what happens after the aliens leave. It’s the story that takes place after the credits of most invasion movies; do you have any favourite alien/invasion/zombie movies that you channel into this work?

Greenwood: At the beginning, it was probably I Am Legend and Mad Max. These days, I find myself thinking about westerns a lot, in the sense that we follow a group who wanders into town and never knows what to expect in a lawless world. I actually was pretty taken with District 9 when it came out- they brought a great reality to the situation and aliens, and it got me excited to see a Resurrection movie some day.

RKL: We now find the survivors, who have picked up Bill Clinton, who was president when the invasion began, being taken to a city that was spared the devastation and the survivors there worship the aliens, or Bugs as they are called in the book. What sort of vibe do you want to give these people who follow the destructive Bugs?

Greenwood: I really liked this premise of the Church of the Cosmos storyline right off the bat. Humanity will cling to any hope they can in the worst of times, even when it’s misguided (or in this case justifies their existence). I tried to make the followers look unshakeable, almost robotic in their crooked faith. That sort of righteousness can be a very scary thing.

RKL: The comic sometimes asks you to draw talking heads for a while but then you also get some Bug reveals and shoot outs; which do you prefer and what do you think the coolest thing you’ve got to draw so far has been?

Greenwood: Yeah, it’s a very character driven book so there is a lot of conversation but Marc is pretty savvy about balancing things out with some pretty awesome eye candy. There are a lot of big splashes in the book that give me a chance to stretch my legs creatively and can be both challenging and very rewarding as an artist.

RKL: What’s it like working with Marc Guggenheim? Does he ever let slip any secrets about the Green Lantern movie, or his Spidey issues?

Greenwood: Ha, not so much. If we’re not talking about the book, we are a lot more likely to be talking about life in general.

RKL: Who is your favourite character in Resurrection to draw, and why?

Greenwood: I’d have to say Morrell. He’s that kind of guy who always has a plan and when something gums it up, he always manages to end up on top- no matter what he has to do to get there. It makes him interesting to draw to try and get that across with his mannerisms, always in control.

RKL: Can you tease us anything coming up in Resurrection?

Greenwood: Without a doubt, the next few issues bring up a lot of new questions and some pretty awesome new characters that change things a lot for our group. I know it just sounds like hype, but starting with the end of issue #9, the book really starts taking off and the status quo of the book changes in a way that’s pretty significant. It would be fair to say not everyone makes it out alive.

RKL: Also, when will Clinton get a sax to sling over his shoulder like some wandering minstrel?

Greenwood: Only if he’s got a knife taped to it and he’s wielding it like a weapon- our group hasn’t had a lot of time to meander!

RKL: You blog about the cover process a fair bit, are you completely left alone to come up with cover designs, or does Guggenheim give you some suggestions he’d like to see?

Greenwood: Typically, I read over the script and draw up a few different images that I think are relevant to the issue and could make for interesting material. For the first arc, all of the covers were collage type drawings depicting a bunch of different aspects of each issue. In the new Church of the Cosmos story arc, the covers are focused on one of the events in an issue, although it’s not always exactly literal. Once my roughs are done, I send them in and collaborate with Marc and James.

RKL: I have to ask about the cover to issue 7, depicting the hanging bodies from the bridge. That’s a pretty brutal image, was there any fear from Oni or Guggenheim in using that image?

Greenwood: If there was any concern, it never filtered down to me. Really, it’s one of the great things about working on this book with Marc and Oni. I have a lot of latitude to be creative and try things, so long as they are in keeping with Marc’s vision of the book. He’s been a warm collaborator and is open minded to any ideas I throw his way.

RKL: I am a huge fan of the covers you produce, will you be getting the chance to do covers for any other titles as yet?

Greenwood: Thanks man, I appreciate it. No, I don’t have any plans to work on any other covers right now but maybe down the road a bit.

RKL: As far as being part of the internet goes, you’ve got your blog, how do you view that device as part of a comic professional’s arsenal, and why haven’t you joined Twitter yet?

Greenwood: Clearly I think it can be a pretty useful PR tool, but honestly I don’t have a lot of love for online social networking. As a comic fan myself, having a blog and showing off rough work was something that I’ve always appreciated and it made sense to start one. As for Twitter, being that accessible to our readers would be pretty handy but I just can’t bring myself to do it - maybe some day. When it comes down to it, I’m kind of a caveman as far as technology goes.

Hey, I just got cable a few months ago - baby steps, brother, baby steps.

RKL: Do you have any idea as to the future of your comics career, or is it still month to month?

Greenwood: The way things look right now, I have enough to do to keep me running for the next couple of years, which is great. Nothing is ever certain in this industry, but I feel pretty comfortable with where I’m at now and I’m having a blast.

RKL: Describe for us a regular day in the life of Justin Greenwood as he works. Is there music, tv, organic coffee, ninja massage?

Greenwood: I operate on a healthy diet of coffee and exhaustion, although it takes just the right balance to make it work.

RKL: Is there a soundtrack to the drawing of Resurrection, what songs would it be made up of?

Greenwood: As far as music goes, I guess the weather is probably the biggest influence on what I'm listening to on any given day, strange as it sounds.

When I'm laying out pages, I play a lot of different music and kind of zone in and out. It's all pretty random. The most recent playlist I put together had The Stranglers, Raekwon, Kris Kristofferson, The White Stripes, Sepultura, Daniel Jonston, Atmosphere, and James Taylor rounding it out. And Tom Waits, of course - always some Tom Waits in the mix. The one song that I keep coming back to in the last couple of months was a rendition of Angels Watching Over Me that Jonathan Richman did. Haunting songs.

When it comes to finishes and inking, I alternate between listening to Howard Stern and a bunch of podcasts. I'm a fan of Kevin Smith's SModcast and The Geek Savants, hosted by some Bay Area friends who are long time comic nerds (like myself).

Today, I started off the morning with the song Cigarettes and Coffee

RKL: Which character would be your dream gig to draw?

Greenwood: I think it would be fun to take a shot at a character like the Phantom Stranger and take him in a different direction, something interesting.

RKL: Do you have a trunk full of Marvel and DC pitches ready to go?

Greenwood: I have a couple of new ideas for pitches that I’ve been kicking around, but hardly a trunk full.

RKL: Can you remember the first comic that really captured you, and what it was that did such a number on you?

Greenwood: Off the top of my head, probably the original Wolverine series from the Eighties. My brother Dan had a copy and I remember it was the first comic I’d ever read that had real weight- the action was understated but picture perfect and it was very mature at the time for a youngster like me (my other comics at the time were probably like Transformers and Sectaurs). That cover is burned into my brain.

RKL: Are there any comics that you’re picking up lately and absolutely loving?

Greenwood: I read a lot of comics. Like, A LOT. Irredeemable has been great. Daytripper has been like a breath of fresh air. I read a ton of crime books- Powers, Scalped, Stumptown, the new Punisher Max, Criminal. A friend just lent me Essex County and it absolutely blew me away. It’s not a new book but it was to me and I can’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner.

RKL: I see a fair degree of Sean Phillips in your work, but whose art style do you think has inspired you the most?

Greenwood: It’s funny- I love Sean Phillips’ work but I never thought of him as a major influence on me, mostly because I didn’t discover him until a few years ago. I think I wear my influences on my sleeve, for the most part - Michael Avon Oeming, Eduardo Risso, Sergio Toppi, Mike Mignola, Marcelo Frusin. I’ve been really into David Gianfelice and Sean Murphy’s work recently. When Sin City originally came out, I was floored- Frank Miller really changed how I looked at using black.

RKL: If you could helm a comic adaptation of a major movie or book what would you like to tackle?

Greenwood: Man, that’s a tough one to choose. When I first started trying to build a portfolio, I interpreted Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron into comic pages. Awesome book. I’d like to take another shot at that one of these days.

RKL: Are there any creators you would love to collaborate with?

Greenwood: I’m a huge Brian Michael Bendis fan, especially his indie stuff. Jason Aaron is a fantastic writer that has really grown on me. His newest issue of Scalped is a lock for me as best single issue of the year.

RKL: The next section is our Literary Rorschach Test, we give you a word or concept and you have to tell us what it makes you feel. You may give us a one word response or a paragraph. Here we go:

Presidential – Clinton (force of habit).
Wild West – Giant robot spider, really? Oh sorry, that was Wild Wild West.
Thought Bubbles – I miss those days although I don’t know if I’d want to go back.
Religion – Sensitive subject (not for me, just in general).
Letter columns – Love ‘em.
Noir – Inspiration.
Opportunity – Be ready when it comes.
Splash page – Again?
Internet – Lots of words, not so much substance.
Being alone – Quiet.

RKL: And finally, are there any great spoilers or scoops you’d like to throw at us to promote what is coming up with your work?

Greenwood: Straight up, the issues come out over the next few months are my hands down favourites and it’s the most exciting drawing I’ve done in the series. If you’re a fan, I think you’re really going to love where Resurrection is going.

RKL: Justin, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for your time, and be honest, where are you going right this second and what will you be doing?

Greenwood: After I come down from this ChocMallowGruel? Back to the drawing board, brother.

Thanks for having me, it’s been good to talk to you.

RKL: Toodle pip!

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Anonymous said...

"Time for another warming chat by the Weekly Crisis Fireside, as we sip on oversized mugs full of hot milky liquid..."



Moving on.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Hey, anonymous, glad someone appreciates the work I put into these...haha.

Dickey said...

The mood worked excellently for me, good times Ryan. Never picked up Resurrection before. Seems like a series worth checking out. Especially when the artist will reference his drugs in an interview. Maybe I'm shallow, but knowing he's the kind of bloke I could see parting at a music festival increases my opinion of him, lol.

Radlum said...

I've never read Resurection but now I'm interested, knife wielding Bill Clinton sounds promising. Good interview as usual

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Dickey - mate, I've finally uploaded his head shot too, now this is one guy you can party with. I've known him for a while, and even pitched some work together, he's a phenomenal artist, and his cover designs always make me smile. Go to my site, if you want to see the work he did for me on a project called Fate.

@Radlum - glad our interviews are already to the level that good quality is usual and assured, thanks man.

Anonymous said...

Great Interview!!! Love RKL - Love the Artist Justin Greenwood!

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