In today’s CCCX Issue 4, Dustin, together with Jim E. Noble, is on the road to Sunshine Comic Convention. Filling in for him this week is the wonderfully funny Rob “Spedsy” Lisle, whose shenanigans we’ve seen in last week’s Supanova.
Shane, Leigh and Rob will have two entirely differently-styled comic creators in this episode.
First up is Steven Christie, a West-Australian indie comic creator who focuses on art jokes and condensed them in his comics, including a graphic novel titled “Turtlenecks.” Steven is Australian-born and bred but currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
After Steven, our wayward guest from last week, Jesse “Darkcell” Dracman, is here to talk about his creations, including his latest comic book, Freakenstein.
A Quick Intro To Steven Christie
Steven starts the interview and details his experience living in Brooklyn with the COVID lockdown procedures rising up. He notes how he and his girlfriend locked down in Brooklyn, but only got back from a national road trip, living in a van for a few months.
He notes how he enjoyed Bryce Canyon, together with Zion National Park as “pretty spectacular”. Steven even noted that they got to visit the infamous Area 51 town of Rachel, where he visited the famous Little A’Le’Inn alien-themed bar. He also got to visit Roswell as they went on roadtrip.
Rob: Let’s Talk About Turtlenecks – This Awesome Comic That I Got Sent Last Night. 129 Pages Of Really Beautiful Artwork
“It’s my first published book and it’s like an art heist mixed with satire kind of theme,” says Steven after showing off his book’s cover. “My first book was an independently published thing and it’s called Arrowheads. It’s [about] art students going around the art world and getting into trouble and stuff and making jokes about art and all that.”
Steven looked at redoing the same thing with more jokes, but this time wanted them doing something at the same time. He wanted them to move at the same space but with a plot. He eventually came up with conceptual art heist for his graphic novel.
Rob: How Long Does It Take You To Start From Idea To Finished Book? How Long Did You Spend On That?
“It’s between one and two years – it depends what you count as the work. When I started writing it, I wrote it all in three days of just solid writing, which never happens to me. It just kind of all came out,” noted Steven.
He further details that, at some point, he decided to do coloured pencil for the art, which everyone advised against. He then went on a hiatus during the pandemic, losing his job temporarily. Steven used this time to continue the work, finishing around two to three years’ worth of work in only a year.
Steven printed his work at non-standard A5 format, with the original drawings around two to three times bigger. Rob notes how he appreciated the level of simplicity used for the art, but at the same time it works.
“I don’t like drawing [on tablet], like it feels kind of plasticky when you draw on a tablet or whatever,” said Steven, noting how he admires people who can do it but his classical training and feel for the medium pushes him towards analog media.
He reveals that he uses Prismacolors, buying a big set before he started. He had to keep going back and buy more for colors that he uses for skin tones and the like.
“During the harsh lockdown pandemic in Brooklyn, the art supplies are closed and I ran out of the skin tone for one of my characters,” Steven detailed. “You couldn’t order online, I would have bought a huge box of pencils to be able to do it and I didn’t have a job so, damn, I can’t finish this comic. I really need this coloured pencil.”
He then goes for a call out on Instagram, eventually walking two hours to the other side of Brooklyn so they can lower it from the balcony and drop it off. Steven further reveals that he uses pencil extenders to maximise the life of his coloured pencils.
Rob: Do You Read Comics Outside Of Your Own? What Sort Of Comics [Do You Read?]
“I read all kinds of stuff,” blurted Steven. “I’ve been getting into old floppy comics. I pretty in the kind of indie scene at the moment.” He is currently into cartoonist Keiler Roberts, showing off My Begging Chart and mentioning Rat Time. He’s also trying to get into the Sandman spin-off Lucifer but haven’t had the time to give it a read.
When asked for his “cartoon comic book hero” by Leigh, he went with The Sandman, which really hooked him in. He also has an eclectic collection, with Maus of Art Spiegelman as one of his titles.
What pushed him with his style, however, was Scott Pilgrim, as Steven wanted a joke at every page of the book. He emulated the style, creating a story without too many words.
He notes that he doesn’t have a lot of exposure to Australian indies just yet, as they are hard to come by in Brooklyn. One of the stories he’s waiting to read is Chris Gooch’s Under-Earth, which he still has in Australia.
Rob: What Took You To America In The First Place? For Comics Or For Love Or…?
“I think comics and love yeah. I moved with my girlfriend and yeah the comics, it kind of coincided with them moving to America,” said Steven. “I finished art school and I was doing these big charcoal drawings and stuff and I did this big residency.
“By the end of it, I was just burnt out from that and school and we moved to New York without really a plan or a goal. I’d never been to America and yeah, I don’t know it just kind of happened.”
He then worked on the comic and found people who like it, including a community of indie comics people in Brooklyn. He notes that moving to work on comics was also a matter of logistics, as charcoal drawings needed more space and maintenance.
He notes that, even with living a few years in New York, he didn’t really love New York “the way other people do”. The locale only recently grew on him, literally only a few weeks on.
Rob: What’s Next After Turtlenecks? Have You Got The Next One Planned?
“Actually, I’ve got some ideas kicking around,” notes Steven. “I think I want to do another one in the same series.” He further adds that whilst he’s running out of ideas, he loves the characters so he’s looking to push it in another direction.
He’s looking to start writing the next one soon, itching to start writing it and looking into burying himself into the next project. He even considers to make a new one to fill a box set for his works.
Around this time, Dustin and Jim come in for a bit to update on their status. Both joke around a bit and update the boys on their way to Sunshine ComicCon. They also talk about the book they are making, blurting “Babes, Gore, and Dinosaur” as their temporary title.
Dustin pitches it as “Bladerunner with dinosaurs and hot chicks”, creating a cyberpunk style story. It’s around this time that Steven also heads out. The lads then joke around further.
Intermission With Rob, Shane and Leigh
As the boys wait for Jesse to come in, they talk about Rob’s growing fandom, stemming from the silliness of The Devil’s Toilet. His fandom is growing bigger every week, and people are looking forward to his works.
He notes how fans are taking more and more pictures of his work and show them off social media and in conventions.
“Supanova sort of made me think like I’m kind of onto something with ‘The Devil’s Toilet’,” said Rob as he discusses his work with Leigh. “The name brought people to the table because they thought it was silly.”
He notes that his wife is quite protective of Frederick Cheloni as a character. He notes how she screened all the original art that came from Friday’s Drink and Draw.
Leigh also discusses his upcoming new IP called Marathon, which will be set 2500 years before Battle For Bustle. He notes that he’s looking to change his style for this entirely new world, looking at inspirations from the likes of Australian indie legend Bo Jardine.
“Marathon is a small town isolated from another settlement and the small town is was placed there exactly a marathon’s difference in length to the coastal civilisation,” details Leigh. He details that the story will start in a dilapidated setting of dust, dust bowls, red skies, and dystopia all over.
He lists people called Runners who work as the liaison between the coastal settlement and Marathon. As the two are separate by a hostile tribe, it’s the Runner’s job to pierce through the hostile areas and get through to the other settlement.
Marathon is running out of runners, with no more boys being born. The main characters are Ambrose, the last of the Runners, and a young boy with learning difficulties. As Ambrose took him under his wing, he continues the mission and the story starts when the former disappears too.
Leigh plans to run the story for eight to nine 8-page issues, with a special gimmick style that works for the story.
After a while, Jesse gets in with the boys and starts talking shop.
Leigh: So, What Do You Do With Yourself, Jesse?
“I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I’m a musician but I’m also now entering the realm of the comic book writing world,” said Jesse. “I’ve put out recently my first horror comic Freakenstein. I just finished issue two and currently working on issue three and starting another series of something else very soon too.”
Jesse details that he’s been touring with his band the past 10 years and only recently found the time to do what he always loved, which was comics.
“Freakenstein was pretty much four years in the making, started from a novel that I wrote and just evolved into what it is now.”
He notes that he had to overcome a few language barriers with his artist Pristianyuli but they now have a great relationship as artist and writer. He summarises that he found his artist through an artist app after talking to many different artists.
He further discusses his upcoming story titled “A Game of Two Evils”, which will be a full horror epic set in the 60s where two demonic entities will have an antagonistic wager using the souls of a cannibal serial killer and a private detective.
“They brought them back from the dead with the promise of a new life,” notes Jesse. “But the catch is their good and evil personas are swapped.” He notes that the cannibal serial killer must remain good whilst the detective can go loose.”
Jesse notes he’s further signed onto Supanova and hopeful Oz ComicCon in Brisbane.
Leigh: Do You Publish Everything Independently?
“It’s all DIY man. It’s been the work ethic of our band for all these years too,” detailed Jesse. “Making the comic book, I knew it was going to cost a few bucks and I started getting into recycling and when it started going well, I don’t want to do Patreon and I don’t want to do Kickstarter just because it’s so time-consuming and energy-consuming.”
Through recycling, Jesse was able to pay his artist enough on a weekly basis. He was also able to print his books and using the sales into getting the comic done. He notes that he also teamed up with Aaron Samut from Maurice and the Metal, helping him with the layouts and graphic design work.
Rob: What Was It Like Opening The Box On That First Print Of Your First Comic?
“Oh man I sh*t my pants,” chuckled Jesse. “When you hold it in your hands? I mean, it’s one thing when you pick up a comic and [you’re] like, you’re really excited about that issue – like those special comics that we all love. But to hold your own creation, you just go ‘my god.’”
Rob likens the feeling to the experience of opening new CDs, to which Jesse agrees. “If you’re passionate about something, those things (feelings) may seem trivial to some but to me they’re everything,” he replied.
Jesse notes that he’s a purist, detailing how much he loves physical media in their entirety, especially with both music and comic books.