As readers of Geek Goes Rogue know, I went to S.P.A.C.E. Indie Comic Con in Columbus, Ohio a few weeks ago. I had the chance to meet some fantastic artists and I want to introduce them to you.
Jacob and I had a great conversation about his just released comic, Villains Galore. The comic is based on the question: what happens when villains try to go straight? I love the idea, and loved the comic. You will too.
Jacob is also the founding member of the DC Conspiracy, an Indie Comic Collective. He also contributed to the amazing District Comics graphic novel, an unconventional history of Washington D.C. told from unknown stories about the city.
GGR: How did you get your start in comics and graphic novels?
Jacob: I knew I wanted to draw comics from the time I was about 13. I had a few really close friends that were into comics. At some point, someone started drawing and keeping a sketchbook. We all thought that was a cool idea. A group of us, at the time I was living on a military base in rural NC, had a competition to render the best fake cover illustration for our made up stories. We also used how to master the “how to draw comics” books we’d get out of the art stores. Drawings of dudes with swords, girls with jetpacks… whatever. I even went as far as to put mastheads and issue numbers on my art so it looked as ‘legit’ to a comic book as possible.
I didn’t draw my first ‘real’ comic book until I was 17, after my father had retired from the military and we moved to rural MD. I met another group of more motivated guys, and spent a lot more time drawing actual stories. Eventually all my friends went off to college (a few to art school, most to regular four-year institutions) and I was left to my own devices.
A few years later I was working at a printing facility, and I met Rafer Roberts (PLASTIC FARM). He reminded me how much I loved drawing, and how much I’d rather be spending my life making comics instead of punching a time card. Everyone needs someone like Rafer to stir them on and keep them headed in the right direction.
GGR What is your normal “work day” look like?
Jacob: I work a full time job in the corporate world to pay the bills. It’s an office job, which means that the stress I get from this job is completely different than I got when I worked a more manual labor job, like construction. I’m home by 6:30 (I live in Washington D.C. now, so there’s no telling what traffic/metro nonsense I’ll have to deal with on the way home) and balance my evenings between drawing, playing music, and keeping my friends and family happy.
I sing and play bass in a local rock band, so life is a bit nuts. My comic convention schedule is growing, so it’s making scheduling difficult on all levels. It’s good to be in demand. I’ve found that the television is my biggest enemy when it comes to creative ventures, and I try to keep away from that or the Xbox as much as possible to keep myself on schedule.
On a typical evening I’m drawing from 7 – midnight. I’m trying to get anywhere between 20-25 hours of drawing time in every week now, which works out pretty well. People in my house have gotten accustomed to talking to the back of my head while I’m feverishly slaving away at my art table.
GGR: The writer Walker Percy once wrote that, “ To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.” How are the characters in your comic, Villains Galore, “on to something” and “avoiding despair”?
Jacob: That’s an interesting question and gets right down to the heart of Villains Galore. I like stories that show me a world that I don’t know. I like characters who have different motivations and beliefs from my own. When I first started thinking about Villains Galore, it was because I was thinking about what happens to people after they’ve made bad decisions in their lives. I’ve had some unlucky turns at love, for example. I’ve had enough ‘bad luck’ in romantic endeavors that some people would have quit on it by now. Not me. I’m ever the optimist, and I am happy to report being currently committed to a long term relationship. Will it work out? Will it be yet another failure in a series of failures? Is there a point where the ends dissuade you from the means?
I think my characters the same way. Frank has a lot of my own eternal optimism about the future, his friends, and his sense of responsibility towards them. When obligations towards people he loves trumps his own set of morals, that’s where the real magic happens in the story. That’s where the humanity comes in, and you have an opportunity as a writer to flesh out your characters to show real internal conflict. For Frank, and I guess for myself, being available to help those around him brings him happiness. Being stable ground for someone else is the reward.
GGR: Describe your work on the District Comics graphic novel. What was the process?
Jacob: District Comics was a real fun project for me. I had the opportunity to work on Fulcrum’s first anthology “Trickster”, eventually landing my interior art on the cover. That was a big ego boost for me, and filled me with more motivation to get my name and work into more publications. When Matt Dembicki (the editor for both Trickster and District Comics) approached me about doing a story in District Comics relating to Rolling Thunder I was ecstatic.
It was a grand departure in theme from the first book. My work in Trickster focused around a rabbit, a deer, and two buffalo. Rolling Thunder is an annual event in DC where hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists decent on the city and ride in a parade from the Pentagon parking lot to the Vietnam memorial. I’ve been riding a motorcycle for about two years by the time this project came around, and started working motorcycles into a lot of my art. Now I was going to get to draw hundreds of bikes!
My father is a veteran of two foreign wars. I’m very proud of what our military sacrificed so you and I could discuss the nuances of comic book making. A lot of people have died to give us that privilege, and whatever I can do to show tribute to them is an absolute blessing for me. The writer that I was pared up with in District Comics was a close friend of mine whose father was also a Vietnam veteran. Jeff’s father had passed away years before we started working on this, and I think we both felt that this would be a great personal accomplishment.
As far as the actual art process… everything just kind of fell together easily for me on this. I work almost completely practical on comic art. I ink with a brush, I use real watercolors. I do some slight manipulation on the computer, and I do digital lettering. For my Rolling Thunder story, I knew I wanted to do a limited pallet between the ‘modern’ aspects of the story and the flashbacks. It seemed like an easy way to show transition to the reader, and helped to set the somber moods of the parade (at least for the main character) and the classic combat feel of the scenes in Vietnam.
GGR: What are you working on now?
Jacob: Next week is Free Comic Book Day, and I’ll be at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis. We met at S.P.A.C.E, which was my second convention with Villains Galore. I really enjoyed showing my work to the people that came over, but felt a little bad that we had to turn some younger kids away. Don’t get me wrong, Villains Galore would likely get a PG rating. There’s minimal profanity, no nudity, and no real ‘adult’ subject matter in the book… that being said it is a book about a guy running a bar, and I knew there would be a lot of imagery of people smoking and drinking. I have teenage kids, and I feel a little weird about how much of that to expose them to.
So, after some discussions with Zarmina Sulaiman, the other half of King Ink Comics, we decided that it would be in our best interests to produce something small and kid-friendly that we could give away to children at conventions. We just put the finishing touches on our first mini comic to fit this need. “Bella and the Bunny Man Bridge” tells a story about a motorcycle riding dog and cat detective team who brave the wilderness of Northern Virginia investigating an actual true phenomenon. Bunny Man Bridge is the kind of place local kids dare each other to go to at midnight, because it’s supposed to be haunted. We built on that idea and came up with a really cute comic that we both feel will appeal to kids without talking down to them. That’s important to me.
Now that Bella is wrapped up, I’m feverishly back on Villains Galore #2, which is scheduled to debut at SPX in the fall. I’m halfway through the art now, so we’re on schedule for that. I’m hoping to get two to three issues of Villains Galore out a year. One to debut at SPX, one to debut at S.P.A.C.E, and hopefully keep progressing the output from there. We’re already floating around ideas as to what we’d want to work on next (two wildly different ideas are currently on the top of the heap) so I’m trying to stay focused on VG so I can wrap up its initial 6 issue story arc.
GGR: How would you advice someone who wants to get started in the Indie Comic world but doesn’t know how?
Jacob: Keep working. Show your work to your peers. The best thing that happened to me comics-wise was moving to Washington D.C. and joining the D.C. Conspiracy. Once a month I get together with other aspiring artists and writers and brought everything I’d drawn since the last meeting. Getting feedback (both positive and negative) keeps me fueled to keep working, and I noticed that eventually the amount of work I was bringing to the group had doubled and was much stronger. Your talents were made to be shared with the world, and I firmly believe that you will hone your skills better by doing just that.
The indie comics world has got to be one of the most welcoming environments I’ve ever had the luxury to be around. The very first indie convention I attended was exploratory. In 1994 I jumped in a station wagon with a couple of friends and journeyed up the east coast to Vermont to attend the A.C.E. I met Paul Pope, Dave Lapham, Dave Sim, Rich Veitch, Steve Bissette, Steve Conley, and a handful of other great creators who were superstars in the indie scene at the time. All I have to show from that experience is a t-shirt that we wore to promote an unproduced book. Everyone of those guys thought my shirt looked cool, asked me about our book and ideas, and said they were interested in reading it once it came out. The indie comics world wants you to make your book. They want you to turn into a success story. We cherish those who love this medium as much as we do.
Bonus Question: What Super hero would you be and why?
Jacob: My favorite Super Hero has always Swamp Thing. It was the first book I ever bought, and swampie has been a mainstay throughout my adult life. To travel the green, I think, would be serene.
Support Indie Artists! Buy Villains Galore straight from Jacob or request it at your local comic book store.