Welcome to another edition of Cross-Country ComX with Shane, Dustin, and Leigh. In Issue 6, everyone’s up for a treat as this is a three-hour extended edition, with a combo of three of the best comic creators from Australia and across the globe.
To start the program, we get The Listener’s artist Eric Viola sharing not only his experiences and process but also technical understanding of publishing comics. He also talks about how he deals with different situations, including the issue of language barrier.
In our second interview, we checked up on the fantastic Lauren Marshall on her current projects. The boys also asked a few industry questions and how her process translates with stories beyond her comfort zone.
CCCX finished with artist extraordinaire Tony Menzie, checking up on some of his works, together with questions on his process and more chats with the boys. With that said, let’s give this a look!
Q&A With Eric Voila of The Listener
Leigh: How Did You Meet Dustin? [Did] You Reach Out To Him? [Did] He Reach Out To You? What’s The Story There, My Friend?
“I was just on Facebook and somebody was asking for comic book artists to work on a project and I just messaged him out of the blue on Facebook and he’s like ‘oh yeah, how are you?’” said Eric.
He and Dustin then chatted for longer, noting how the latter was super nice to him. Eric then gave a trial to Dustin and started their working relationship on the first three issues of The Listener, with issue four currently a work in progress.
Eric is also helping Dustin on some other IPs and other elements of his work. Among those, he is using his experience with publishing to help Dustin get the best output for his comics.
Leigh: You’re A Digital Artist, Is That Correct?
“Yes, but my main strength used to be pencil and paper because I’m originally from South America,” notes Eric. “We didn’t have much but so pen and paper or pencil and paper will be, like, the whole childhood and my teenage years and then jumped on acrylics, oils, watercolours, and later on, being 28, I bought my first tablet because I had a surgery.
“I couldn’t walk for a little bit and my main discipline is kendo – Japanese fencing. I couldn’t do Kendo for a bit and I was really disappointed. I used to be a [part of the] national team] so that would be my main focus and I said ‘if I can’t even train, what is the only thing that I can continue with?’”
Eric details that he’s a single-minded individual who does only one thing at a time. With that in mind, he focuses on drawing and painting instead because those are some of the other things he does.
Going further, Leigh commented on the style of colour that Eric uses, noting how much his use of colour speaks to him. Eric then admits that he likes saturation and that he’s a fan of colour, but admits that he doesn’t know why.
“Like [when] mixing realistic styles with cartoons sort of, I like the colour to punch you in the mouth like, bang!” says Eric. He notes that much of the challenges with comic books is making sure that the colour the artist sees on the screen is the same printed on paper.
When Leigh asked about the specifics of the phenomenon, Eric details that there are two factors that work into the entire process.
“Screens work in RGB – red, green, and blue, right?” notes Eric. “But printing works in cyan, yellow, magenta, and black. So there are different colour mixing – you have RGB on the screen and you want to send that, you will have to translate what is RGB into CMYK. So, when that happens, you lose power on your saturation.
“You want to prepare your file for printing – that’s one step. The person who is sending you their work needs to know how to do that or you need somebody else who’s a technical artist with that.
“Another you’re depending [upon] is your equipment. Even if you calibrate it perfectly and you go into the printer and the physical print comes out, [it] maybe differs from what you have done on the computer even if you know the translation.”
Leigh: How Are The Scripts When You Get Them?
“There are a few things that play a role in what you mentioned,” starts Eric. “I’m not a native English speaker so I’ll make sure I get the idea from the writer, right. We sit down virtually, we make a call and we go page by page and I try to understand what does he mean? Not so much what he wrote, because I scan the script really fast.
“But I don’t care so much about that and I just wanted to know what he means with every page. I ask ‘in your head, what is happening?’”.
Eric notes that he treats the story more like a TV show by trying to understand what Dustin wanted. They then go break it down into details and even specifics on how to interpret Dustin’s vision.
Audience Question: How Do You Play With Depth Of Field In Your Art?
“It depends on what’s the subject or model for what the author wants to convey,” notes Eric. “Sometimes, they feel it’s really good to focus on something that is really important for the story and sometimes the story needs to show the whole environment.
“We have, in book two, there’s a double page theme where all the Japanese soldiers are running on each other. In that, nothing’s too clear but at the same time, there’s none of the characters [that] are too out of focus because everything is important.
“Then you have pages where there’s a single thing to point out because it relates – it is strictly connected to the story.”
He notes that the POV starts at the planning stage, with Dustin adding that they are getting better at presenting the work and doing the project. The latter also notes that they never put any dialogue in two-page spreads as they take away from Eric’s artwork.
They also discussed other details within the story, which includes how Dustin works with his team and how he works in tandem with Eric. More in-depth discussions and context can be found in the video, including some artwork previews for The Listener that you shouldn’t miss.
Q&A With Lauren Marshall of Young Rufus, Lana Leuka, and Bolt
Leigh: So What’s On The Agenda, Mate? Artworks, Creative Works For You, Laura?
“I’ve just finished off six pages for Darren for Young Rufus, so that was a lot of fun because it was more focused on children, where my personal stuff, I like to do a little bit more grungy and adult,” opened Lauren, who was five minutes fresh after waking up, according to her.
“It was interesting to still have my style, which is quite rough and geometric almost, then soften it down for kids but it was really good. The pages turned out awesome.”
Lauren also notes that she has another project right after Young Rufus, which is the second issue of Bolt, noting that she’s full steam ahead with no time to waste. She adds that she is prepping for upcoming festivals around West Australia, including Supanova and other comic festivals.
Dustin also checked if local Australians get the priority when it comes to booking for comic conventions or overseas celebrities get the priority.
“I would like to say I would be booked, but that’s not a thing,” Lauren lamented. She notes that the local creators that get bookings are ones that receive publication deals with Marvel and DC, or those who work on legendary creative works such as The Phantom or Ninja Turtles.
Among the things they discuss, Dustin notes how he wants to bring his books Australia-side and cross the pond. He says that he’s willing to help any Australian indie creator to have an audience in the US.
Dustin: What Does It Feel Like as an Up and Coming Creator To Work On A Project That Is As Australian As Young Rufus?
“It was awesome. Darren approached me, we’ve been getting pretty close lately and we just have a yarn every couple of days just to catch up on how we’re feeling and how we’re going creative-wise,” details Lauren.
He reached out to ask if I’d be interested and I was like, hell yeah. This is a good one. It’s a good stepping stone obviously but it’s like a big brand that I’ve always wanted to be a part of and because it was something that I had a bit more creative control over, it was exciting.”
She further adds that it’s a challenge to mash other creators’ styles with her own, together with creating her own model sheet to go by and help with consistency.
“Also, I realised halfway through that I don’t really draw people of colour. I don’t know whether that’s just ingrained in my head because I’m white, right? It was a good eye opener for me to be, maybe, I do need to integrate this more into even just my general art and pick people of colour and that was really nice for me to speed up the feature,” revealed Lauren.
Leigh: What Was Your Process When You Received The Script?
“I actually got to choose,” starts Lauren. “There’s a couple of stories to choose from and I got to have a quick flick through them because I think I only did six pages. They’re short, sweet stories and I got to choose one that I thought might work, and Darren also suggested the one that I was already leaning towards anyway.
“I can visualise things in my head quite quick and i just saw the panels sort of like laying out in my head straight away. From there, I do my real rough layouts just so the flow of the story works because me, visually, I’ll write down and draw down the sequentials but it’s always good to flick it back.
“I do a refined rough again, then I’ll get on in and I’ll always get the inking approved before I go to colouring because it’s a bit hard to move the colouring once you inked it and coloured it. From there, it’s about refining and going back through it again. I’ll make sure that everything’s clean because my eyes will be fresh.”
Leigh also checked on the next Lana Leuka from Lauren, checking when the second issue is coming for her story. The latter notes that it’s a work in progress, saying that the story is there and there’s four pages they’re working on.
“Time-wise, we’re hoping to release it on Kickstarter either August or September,” reveals Lauren, who says she needs to get Bolt done, where she’s done with the layouts. She also shows off a few of her creations, including a few pages of Young Rufus and variant covers of Lana Leuka.
The boys and Lauren also discuss the value of a helping community as a whole, with Darren detailing how good Australian indie has it with a blooming community of talented indie creators who are reaching their hand out.
Shane: Bolt – how can people get it?
“Mainly just sells at conventions from what I know. In terms of a shop front, it’s bolt-comics.com,” Lauren said. The creator of the comics, Andrew and Daniel Tribe, are also looking to expand further than this series, looking into publishing comics themselves.
Q&A With Tony Menzie of Fallen and Killer Bea
Leigh: ComX Presents: what’s happening? how far through it are you? You got it all nailed down or what?
“Mostly through pencils but I’ve sort fast forward a little bit,” opened Tony. “Started doing some inking last night, so fully scripted apart from maybe a little polish here and there.” Tony estimates that he’s around 90% done with the pencils for his story.
Tony also admits that it’s his first time creating sequentials, as he’s more into world building and writing stories, calling it a never-ending vortex.
“I’ve decided to challenge myself and I’ve sort of going against ‘there’s no superheroes’. No capes. It’s all in-world, real-world, and she an old-age pensioner,” notes Tony after being asked what his story is all about.
“She’s in her 70s but she had a traumatic experience when she was about 13. She was sort of randomly attacked and blasted in the face and she has a very nasty scar going right down vertically on the right-hand side of the face.
“She’s blind on one eye but, without giving too much away, she’s very very clever, very sharp, very patient, and events occur over the decades where she can potentially get some karma on those who did her wrong although all those were many years ago.”
Tony also notes that much of the influence he had comes from Superman reprints in Australian comics, especially the ones that come from newsagents back in the day. It allowed him to witness the black and white lines of masters like Jack Kirby.
Leigh: What’s/Who’s Your Favourite 2000 Ad Character/Story? What’s The One That Sticks Out To You?
“Again being an old fart, it was the early days,” says Tony. “It was Dread. The Mayor of Dread was just magical. It was this great mix of stories and it’s still there but I think now it’s taken a bit more seriously but back in the early 70s or the late 70s, Dread, I should say, was this amazing mix of incredibly dark humor, ultraviolence, and some brilliant comic telling. In the same vein, there was a flesh with time-traveling cowboys harvesting dinosaurs.”
He notes that, for a 12-year old, reading the weird and wacky stories in 2000 AD were like a Tarantino film. The boys and Tony then share several stories, including the impending end of some 2000 AD stories like Slaine.
As Tony shows off his latest art for his Presents: Noir story Killer Bea, Leigh notes how much he needs to up his game as he’s being shown off by Lauren and Tony when it comes to panelling.
“But that’s the great thing about this community that Shane has formed, you know, over the last 12 months or so,” remarks Tony. “It’s great to be able to talk to guys like you and to inspire each other and to, you know, wanting to better yourself from that.”
Why You Should Watch The Video for Cross-Country ComX Issue 6
Full disclosure: For the first time, we will admit that this article doesn’t do the entire video justice, and for a good reason. A good chunk of this entire interview involved many visual details that don’t translate well into words. While the Q&A portions were relatively robust, there’s more to them than meets the eye.
For those looking to enjoy more of CCCX Issue 6, watching the video is a must! Shane, Leigh, and Dustin had an amazing time, with tons of show and tell with all the guests.
Exclusive to the video are some scenes that are downright impossible to catch on words. These include many show and tell sequences with all the artists and sharing life experiences with industry vets like Tony Menzie.
We encourage you to give the video a watch and don’t miss this special extended edition of Cross Country ComX. See you next week!