The PNP Crew Q&A Series, #3: GRAEME JACKSON

The PNP Crew Q&A Series, #3: GRAEME JACKSON

BULLET GAL_US_trade comic collection_cover by Graeme JacksonHaving set ourselves a mission (of sorts) to raise the profile of the people we work with — both creators and admin — our next victim interviewee is Australian artist Graeme Jackson, the creator behind the sensational wraparoud cover for the Bullet Gal trade. He also currently works as artist and co-scripter on the upcoming Crash Soirée.

[BTW, if you missed #1 with PNP’s Galo Gutierrez you can check that out here, and the one with Matt Kyme here]


Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Graeme Jackson, and I am an illustrator working primarily in Photoshop, utilising what I hope is a realist style.

I currently reside in Australia. To be more specific, I live in a suburb of Bendigo, approximately 180 kilometres north of Melbourne, known as Kangaroo Flat. Really — I kid you not. My partner Lyndall and I have two children, Hannah and Ethan. We also have a dog named Abbey who, on most days, is never more than three feet away from me. Those other days? She’s asleep in the next room. Safe to say, we’re kind’a close.

How did you become involved with Project-Nerd Publishing?                        

I’ve been lucky enough to be collaborating with Aussie expat Andrez Bergen on a comic called Crash Soirée for the past half-year. When Project-Nerd offered to publish his 12-issue Bullet Gal comic as a collected trade paperback, Andrez asked if I would be interested in providing a cover. I was. Bullet Gal’s a cracker.

Junie Bullet Gal article hi-resWhy are indie comics so damned important?

Lack of corporate oversight? [laughs] I’m serious, though. Indie comics, by their very nature, provide access to a range of ideas and styles never to be found in mainstream comics. Work that just wouldn’t fly if governed by the bottom line or any reticence regarding its acceptance by the majority. In indie comics, no one is watching over your shoulder and the gloves are off. Pure artistic vision. Sometimes the vision falls a little short, but it’s mostly propped up by the sincerity and passion of its creators.

Not only that, indie comics are where tomorrow’s talent refine their chops, and learn how to make good comics. Today’s comic superstars were indie not that long ago. Bendis? Rucka? They had stories to tell before the big two came calling.

Who are your favorite three comic book artists, and which titles of theirs are the best, so far as you’re concerned?

Ahh, the desert island question… Too many to narrow down to three. Kirby, Gibbons, Perez, Swan, Steranko, Adams (Arthur and Neal). All wonderful. Gary Chaloner was a revelation to my younger self. Huge fan of Steve Epting and Sean Phillips. I’ll always check out new stuff by Steve McNiven. Love me some Steve Dillon, Mike Mignola and Frank Quietly.

That’s not to mention the legion of talented men and women whose names I just can’t remember at the moment. In terms of personal influence? John Byrne, Bryan Hitch and Alex Ross. My apologies to those artists; it’s not their fault…

DC, Marvel, Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse, all of these — or something else?

A bit of everything really. At my core I’m a DC guy, but I can’t disregard the amazing run Marvel had through the ’60s to the ’80s. Fantastic characters, fantastic stories, and really ballsy work. Marvel, maybe by virtue of youth, showed readers what could happen in comics if characters were allowed to evolve. I wish they still did that.

Right now, I’m an Image reader, which is amazing to me. I was there when they formed and I read a lot of their initial… product. If you told me 20 years ago that one day, I’d hold Image up as the reason why I still read comics, I would have laughed my head off at you. But there it is.

Lazarus, Southern Bastards, Saga, Bitch Planet… Yummy. And so much more. Personally, I think Invincible is the greatest superhero title published in the last decade. It’s that good. I know Robert Kirkman doesn’t need the money, but I still encourage everyone to try it. It will remind you not only of why you love superheroes but, by extension, comics. Every time.

13055714_561659937349344_1635347955138465981_oWhat style/genre of comics do you prefer to read?

I’m generally up for anything. I know that sounds wishy-washy, but it really, I read everything I can, and only judge later. I truly love superheroes, and the heroic ideal, but as time passes I see less and less innovation within that genre. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my need to have less dumb in my life (a never-ending battle), or maybe the market just isn’t the same for me any more.

I remember when Grant Morrison started a wee series called Animal Man in 1998. I was only 12, but it forever changed my reading. After that, the usual monthly fare seemed… diminished somehow.

Thank goodness for Karen Berger. She pretty much curated my ’90s library… These days? I’m a huge fan of espionage/spy fiction, so right now, Velvet is ticking all my boxes. I’ll always pick up anything Ed Brubaker thinks worthy of his time, and especially when Phillips or Epting are on board. I need more Criminal. I also love Saga — which, at a glance, wouldn’t normally be on my radar but I’ve learned that genres, by definition, are too divisive. I just want to read good comics, so I do. I’ve already mentioned a few. Invincible is my go-to book for super-heroics. Cracking good fun, and surprisingly poignant at times.

In terms of your creativity, which styles/genres do you prefer to work with?

I tend to work in a fully “painted” (it is digital after all) style. After a few years of working out how to use Photoshop, it’s the style I’m most comfortable with. It also hides a lot of my errors as an illustrator. I’m just not good enough to pencil and ink. I need to use tones and shape, rather than line, to depict what’s in my head. I’m still amazed by artists that can use just two values (black and white) to render an image. Mignola, Nowlan, Chaloner, Austin, Russell… I’m in awe. That confidence I have some doubts I’ll ever achieve. But really, I just love every stage of comic art, from script to colors. One day I hope to get one of them right.

11215727_223443367991665_2494244175411525755_nWhat is the most innovative, landmark comic book title (or graphic novel) in history — and why do you feel this way?

Historically or personally? I’ve read a lot of comics, and while I have to put Watchmen down as the best, it’s not necessarily my best. For myself, I’ll still say Animal Man. I never laughed as much, scratched my head so much, or generally had as good a time reading anything else (maybe Giffen’s Justice League). Really, it was only three years after Crisis and Morrison was already bringing the weight of the newly-jettisoned multiverse to bear on the DC Universe. Take that.

I also need to mention the Man Of Steel mini-series by John Byrne that pretty much cemented my love of not only Superman, but collecting in general. All of a sudden, my favourite hero was international news, and a bad-ass. And only two weeks between issues? Super-sweet.

Who is your all-time favorite comic book character? How did he/she/it achieve this status?

Superman. Can’t help it. The first and the best, at least in term of heroism. As a kid learning to read, watching the George Reeves [TV] series, then finding the comic in the local newsagent was a joy. Superman is just that pure kind of hero. Sure, it’s kind of hokey, but hokey in the best possible way. Even with all that power, he’s a hero, because that’s the best possible thing thing you can be. He actually likes humanity. What a fantastic motivation, unlike say, Batman or Spider-Man, who are motivated by vengeance and guilt. For me, it all boils down to the purpose of the hero, what it is he does at his core. Sure, Batman’ll find your fresh corpse, deduct the method of murder and find who did you in, but Superman don’t play that. With Superman, you don’t die. He saves your butt, winks, and makes everything OK. I like that.

Favorite non-comic book artist?

Drew Struzan, no question. You know the guy — he produced some of the most famous movie posters for the most popular franchises in cinema history. The Muppet movies, Indiana Jones and Star Wars, to mention just a few examples of his magic. I’m a child of the ’80s, which was almost a golden age of film poster illustration, before the industry decided that Photoshopped ones featuring fairly bland compositions were cheaper to produce and therefore preferable. I was exposed to and became a huge fan of his art long before I even knew his name. His work has arguably been seen by more people on the planet than any other artist, and most of it just looks cool as hell.

Why is a colorist important in comic books?

Mood, baby. A good colorist adds that extra layer of atmosphere to a page, while helping to separate the elements of the composition. Color plays a huge part in making that emotional connection with the readership.

Who’re your favorite three comic book writers, and why? Which titles of theirs are the best, so far as you’re concerned?

Alan Moore would probably be my favorite comic writer of all time. His impact in the 1980s is undisputed, and changed the way people thought about writing in comics. Watchmen, of course, is his most famous and acclaimed work, but before that on titles such as Miracleman, he was kicking serious tail. Even his more recent works such as his America’s Best Comics line, were a breath of fresh air. Top 10 made me laugh out loud every time I read it. Galactapuss…[snicker]. Other writers I enjoy immensely are early Grant Morrison (I’ve already mentioned that incredible Animal Man run) and Ed Brubaker. Robert Kirkman also deserves a nod for the always entertaining Invincible.

Self-portrait by the artist

Self-portrait by the artist

What are your creative plans for the future — what can we expect from you?

For now, I’m really enjoying working on Crash Soirée. I can’t wait for people to see it. I also get to fit in the odd cover or poster here and there, so that’s something that I’d like to continue.

If Netflix or the Syfy channel made a TV series of your latest comic book, which actors would you cast in the key roles?

Honestly? If Crash was made into a series, I’d love it to be an animated project, in the vein of Batman: The Animated Series. Not necessarily that style, but that mood and feel it had.

The future of comic books — what’s really going to happen in this industry?

I’ve seen some really interesting things done with Augmented Reality by Australian artist Sutu [Stu Campbell], which absolutely takes my breath away. These aren’t comics you read, rather they are experienced. Ground-breaking stuff, and I urge everybody to check them out.

I sometimes worry that comics are going to price themselves out of existence, and wish that the big publishers were using digital distribution and the inherent cost saving as a means of building readership. Remember the old days when comics were 60 cents? Nowadays, you need a second mortgage to keep up with the big publishers. You can’t tell me that a book you no longer need to print or distribute should cost the same as a physical copy. It’s ludicrous. Unfortunately, they still seem content to grab as much cash as they can from as few people as they can. I don’t get it. I’d rather have 100 people give me a dollar, than 10 people giving me five. Make them cheaper, and get them into the hands of as many people as you can. It also kind of annoys me that the strength of the most powerful man in comics comes not from a pencil, brush or word process, but comes from his trucks. I was kind’a hoping that digital distribution would destroy that existing structure. Alas, no luck so far.

I dunno… I honestly have no idea, but I’m sure that comics will always be around in some form. There’s a certain purity in telling a story in this most direct, undiluted way. Just words and pictures on a page. Magic. And anyone can have a crack at it.

What’s the freshest, greatest comic book title this year?

I’m still enjoying the heck out of Invincible. It has managed to evolve and change over the course of the last decade, without ever feeling the need to return to some stagnant status quo. Unlike nearly everything else on the rack, Invincible still manages to delight and suprise me nearly every issue. To maintain that level of quality for 120-plus issues is a remarkable feat.

Who’s your favorite non-comic book writer, and why? Which book of his/hers is the best, so far as you’re concerned?

Again, far too many to whittle down to a single writer. I enjoy such a range of styles and genres that it’s impossible to pick a favorite. I can easily go from Cormac McCarthy to Lee Child, and on into John Grisham during the course of a week — with a bit of LeCarre and Ludlum thrown in for flavor. Recently, I’ve been reading a bit of Don Westlake’s Parker novels, and enjoying them immensely.