Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fireside Chat with Mike Holmes

It's time for another one of our delightful Fireside Chats, so grab a sitting spot and get ready for some comic conversing.  We're fortunate to welcome artist Mike Holmes who has graciously taken some time to sit down with us and talk about Bravest Warriors, the brand new series from Boom!  With the issue coming out tomorrow, we caught up with Mike to talk more about what Bravest Warriors is all about, some of the behind-the-scenes process, as well as some personal background.  We'll see you on the other side of the jump for some interviewing goodness!

While Mike Holmes' name may be somewhat new in the wider comic book scene, like many artists, he's been working at his craft for a good, long while, and the effort shows.  He's long posted his work online at his website,  mikeholmesdraws.com (where you can find all sorts of visual goodness), as well as self-publishing his work in various books.  He's had a few gigs at Boom! Studios, including fill-ins on Adventure Time, and he was recently tapped to launch Boom!'s new book, Bravest Warriors, along with writer Joey Comeau of A Softer World.

Grant McLaughlin: I'd just like to start off by thanking you for taking the time out of your day to sit down and chat with us at the Weekly Crisis, Mike. Let's get things rolling with a softie, shall we? How's your day going thus far?

Mike Holmes: Great! I’m waiting for the script for issue 3 right now, so in the meantime I’m trying to take care of some other projects so that I can give my full attention to the new script when it arrives. Plus I spent a chunk of the afternoon working on my Halloween costume – I’m going as Seymour Krelborn from “Little Shop of Horrors”, and I’m building an Audrey II puppet to go along with it (I make puppets too, and am documenting it to put online).

GM: Wow.  That's both super awesome and way more interesting than what I've been doing with my day.  Fortunately this interview is about you, so that works out pretty well.  How did you end up getting recruited by Boom! Studios for Bravest Warriors?

MH: It all came from a series of warm-up drawings I had been putting up on my Tumblr – they were daily self-portraits in several different cartoon styles known as “Mikenesses”. After about a month of doing this, I get an email from an associate editor at BOOM!, asking if I’d like to test for the upcoming “Peanuts” comic book. I jumped on that, but later they offered me a few fill-in issues of their “Adventure Time” comic, and I’d have to be a full-on moron to turn that down. Following that, they offered “Bravest Warriors” to me as series artist, which made me feel pretty terrific, that they liked what I was doing.

GM: Very cool!  Nice to hear that sitting down and working hard can have such a concrete payoff!  Were you familiar with any of Pendleton Ward's works before you got the gig?

MH: Oh my god, yes. I’d seen the original Adventure Time pilot on YouTube years ago and have been watching the series regularly. That is easily one of the best shows on TV right now, and there are some amazing shows to choose from.

GM: Fair enough.  That being said, how would you convince someone who's heard absolutely nothing about Bravest Warriors to give the book a chance?

MH: Assuming that they’ve never heard of Adventure Time either, I would say this: Four teenagers with badass weapons fly around the galaxy meeting awesome aliens and having emotions, and it’s super funny.

GM: Haha, that's amazing.  Following such a wacky description, what kind of tone would you describe Bravest Warriors as having?

MH: Unpredictable. Something that it shares with Adventure Time – I can’t tell where an episode is going and it’s constantly surprising, but in a really satisfying way, not in a “that came out of nowhere for no reason” kind of way. I love watching a show that keeps me on my toes but still sticks to some internal logic.

GM: What appeals to you about working on Bravest Warriors?

MH: The characters, right off the bat, are pretty solidly well-defined. After completing two issues I feel like I know them. That’s a testament to the creators of the show but also to Joey Comeau, who really brings out some great moments between the Warriors.

GM: And how is the collaboration with Joey Comeau going? What kind of working relationship do you two have?

MH: I’ve known Joey for a while, and was pretty thrilled to find out he was the writer on this book. He’s got the perfect twisted sensibility for a Pen Ward adaptation, while still retaining his own voice. We Facebook chat a lot, but it’s mostly “EEEE I’m super psyched about this book” and stuff, which I am fine with.

GM: When we spoke at Toronto FanExpo, you mentioned a scene involving the ghost of a cupcake haunting our heroes. Is this the kind of thing we should always be expecting from the book or is it but a tasty one-off?

MH: That is just the icing. Yeah, I said it.

GM: Sounds pretty... sweet?  In other things that fall under the "good news" heading, Bravest Warriors has recently been upgrade to an ongoing – how do you feel about that and does it impact your work at all? Perhaps a related question: how do you deal with the high expectations of working on a brand new Pendleton Ward series?

MH: I’m just taking these one at a time. Working on a series adapted from a Pen Ward-created show is massive – that guy makes great stuff – but I would be a big crumpled ball if I let nerves get to me. I just want to complete a page, look at it and say “I’m pretty happy with this”.

GM: On a similar note, as you and Joey are working on a series that has yet to be released, what kind of access to show material have you had up to this point? Are the show creators keen on you guys sticking to their vision or are you able to inject your own ideas and images into the comic as well?

MH: The first issue of Bravest Warriors was a bit of a scramble to get reference material - working on Adventure Time was easy, because there were four seasons of episodes to look at, plus the background artist (known as ghostshrimp) puts all the backgrounds online. But the Bravest Warriors crew went above and beyond and sent me tons of files with the BW backgrounds, characters, props and everything. We don't really have a solid idea of tone or pacing yet - if Joey and I got pretty close then that's great, and we have future issues in which to tighten that up once the show is up and running. Working on the second issue, I contacted Breehn (Burns, the showrunner/director of Bravest Warriors) and asked if he had any backgrounds for the bathroom on the Warriors' ship. He basically said just to go ahead and design it - it'll save them from having to in the future. So there's a lot of trust there. I've thrown my own little jokes in there, too - in issue 1 there's a scene in a food court, and I created all the names and logos for about 10 different restaurants. That was pretty fun, but I always want to make sure that my sense of humor and Joey's and the writers on the show all work together. You don't want to inject something that doesn't belong in that world.

GM: Sounds like a pretty healthy relationship. Both Adventure Time comics have featured backup stories in their issues. Will this practice continue in the pages of Bravest Warriors? And if so, can you tell us about any of the contributing creators?

MH: Yeah! Ryan Pequin (Three Word Phrase) writes and draws the backup for issue 1! If that is the level of talent they are bringing to this then I definitely have to bring my A game.

GM: Understandably so! What's your process for working on this book? How has it differed from your work on previous projects (if at all)?

MH: I’m finding (two issues in) that I need to settle into a pattern – I’ve never done a monthly book before, just weekly strips and full graphic novels. Once I find that pace I’ll feel a lot better.

GM: Speaking of the past, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? How did you come to comics?

MH: Born in B.C., I lived in Nova Scotia for the last couple decades (although I spent some years in Toronto). I teach graphic storytelling to students a lot, and I always say this – I’m doing comics because I, like many pre-teen kids, drew a lot. I just never stopped. I grew up reading Tintin and Calvin & Hobbes, and there’s no better motivation to get into comics than to be surrounded by the best examples when you’re younger.

GM: What importance would you give to the practice of posting your work to the internet in the development of your career?

MH: The internet is as important a tool for cartoonists/illustrators/artists as pencils and markers and Photoshop. You can try to carve a career out without an online presence, but why would you fight it? Finding ways to make social media work on my own terms is the biggest reason that I am able to pay my bills drawing funny pictures.

GM: One of the ongoing features of the site are your “True Story” comics, where people send you in their true stories and you convert them into single page comics. How did this idea come about and what keeps you doing it after all this time?

MH: It was borne out of desperation – I was finishing up an earlier series and needed an idea, and it seemed like no one had done it, to turn stories that anyone could submit into these little capsule comics. It’s something that I could continue to do as long as people send me stories, and I’ll keep doing it because it’s constantly challenging me with new ways of presenting these stories in the most entertaining way.

GM: Alright, as we move towards the end, let's hit some quick questions.  What / who would you say are your major influences?

MH: My dad, Bill Watterson, Herge, the Nintendo Entertainment System and candy.

GM: What is the most satisfying part of the creative process for you?

MH: That part between having that lightning-strike moment on how to draw and pace a story, and the moment you execute it as you saw it in your head. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does there is no better feeling.

GM: I imagine your schedule keeps you pretty busy, but when you can find the time, what kind of things have you been reading lately (books / comics / whatever)?

MH: I got the Rocketeer Adventures and Carl Barks’ “Lost in the Andes” for my birthday and have been obsessing over them ever since. The trick is to put all your books in your bathroom, not just the Archie Double Digests.

GM: What else do you have on deck for 2012 and beyond? Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon that we should be looking out for?

MH: Nothing that I could say is solid, but one of the best things about what I do is that tomorrow I could get an email from an editor or a famous comedian or whatever that will change the next six months of my life. I’m still excited about Bravest Warriors! When I settle down, then I’m sure I’ll have something new to crow about.

GM: To finish up, we have the Literary Rorschach Test. The way it works is that I'll give you ten words and you have to respond with the first thing that jumps to mind for each one. It can be a word or a full blown paragraph – the choice is yours. Shall we?

Canada  Arm
Space  Madness
Besties – Every Flavour Beans (it looked like Bertie’s for a second)
Justice – Buck (there was a kid in my 6th grade class named Justice Buck, I shit you not)
Adventure – DuckTales: The Movie – Treasure of the Lost Lamp
Feelings – Beaker (look it up on YouTube)
Expectations – breakfast (I like Egsspectations restaturants, breakfast is the greatest meal in life)
Update – Tina Fey
Deadline – 14-hour day
The End – Skeletor, when he popped out of the water at the end of Masters of the Universe and said “I’ll be back!” Haha, no you won’t, Skeletor.

GM: Thanks a lot for taking the time, Mike. Much obliged.

MH: No problem! Thank you.

The inaugural issue of Bravest Warriors will hit comic book stores everywhere tomorrow, so don't forget to grab yourself a copy of what promises to be another hit from Boom! Comics!  And if you're wanting some more Mike Holmes goodness, you can always take a stroll over to his wonderful site!

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