Vex : The life and times of a graphic novel

Danny Paris and Brian Shearer are two talented writers and illustrators. Together they produce two online comics vex, and Deputy Witch. If you are into comics and graphic novels they are definitely worth checking out, if you’re not check em out anyway.. in the words of Dr Pepper, whats the worst that could happen?
Flush the Fashion spoke to the guys about life, death, art and er… pencils.

How did you get into becoming a comic artist?
Brian: I was always a compulsive sketcher and was drawn to comic book art in middle school. I would go to Acme Comics, our local shop, and just look through all the different art. Eventually I started getting into the stories, which I loved, but it was the art that pulled me in first. In 2000 I went to my first convention and showed some of my art to an editor and got some feedback. I learned I had a lot of work to do. A few years later I did 4 issues of a book I co-created called GravyBoy and that’s really what got me on the other side of the tables at conventions promoting and publishing a book.
Danny: Comics is something I just kind of fell in to. I started by helping Brian out with GravyBoy several years ago by doing some colors for him. Then a few years ago, Brian came to me with an idea for a story where a curse is put on someone so that everything that is written in this person’s yearbook comes true. I thought it was a great concept and we began meeting regularly to work on writing the story around this idea.

Deputy WitchHow long have you been drawing?
Brian: Like I said, I was always a compulsive sketcher. As long as I can remember I would always sketch: in front of the TV, in church, at school. I think it was my 4th grade teacher that told my parents that I wouldn’t pass if I didn’t quit drawing so much. It’s like the desire to draw was hardwired in my head. Of course, I was also slow to become a serious student and didn’t really try to start educating myself in technique and anatomy until about 10 years ago…so I feel like I’m catching up. I wish I has been more diligent with it at an earlier age.
Danny: I’ve been involved in some form of art most of my life and enjoy finding different ways to express myself creatively whether it be with a pencil, a paintbrush, a computer, or whatever. I haven’t done much drawing myself here recently due to the time I’m putting in on the graphic novels, but it remains something I really want to get back in to.

How long does it take you to finish a page on average?
Brian: On my own books I tend to be a little more cartoony and loose. I’m more concerned with telling the story than doing really slick art. It varies depending on what’s on the page, but I’d say on the average to pencil and ink can be from 3 to 4 hours doing my looser cartoony style. When I do things for companies and work-for-hire jobs I really slow down and take more time. Usually about a page a day. Again, it depends one what my intent is, what the job calls for, and what’s on the page.
Danny: As far as the coloring goes, beats me, ha. I’ve never really paid too close attention to how long it takes. I’m usually watching television or a movie or listening to the iPod while working. I just know that pages that take place in a library or a grocery store can be a royally tedious pain in the butt. But if I had to guess I’d say anywhere from a couple of hours on up to several hours depending on the amount of detail on the page.

vex - Graphic comicWhat other illustrators do you admire, and who are you inspired by?

Brian: Mike Wieringo, Randy Green, Adam Hughes, Eric Canete, and Skottie Young come to mind. When I was starting out I really liked Neal Adam’s, especially his Batman. Looking at their stuff makes me want to work harder and get better.
Danny: I second Mike Wieringo and Randy Green.

What are each others roles on the comics?
Brian: We both sit down and work on plot and dialogue. So the story-telling ends up being 50/50. As far as production goes, I pencil/ink and he colors. We split the lettering duties.
Danny: We come up with the basic outline early on so we know exactly where we are going with the story. Brian and I then meet regularly to discuss and hash out the actual details of the story. We work out how to get from A to B in the story and the details of what happens in between. We usually do this at least a few times per chapter. Brian then lays out the pages, does the pencils and inks, scans them, and sends them to me to color. For the dialog, we have a shared Google document where we each can go in and write dialog, review what the other has written, and suggest changes if needed.

Are these available to buy in a ‘traditional comic’, if not do you plan to release them?
Brian: Right now they’re only available online, but we will be looking at approaching publishers this year. I’m old fashioned in that I like a physical book to hold, so we’ll definitely be looking into that. We’re also interested in formatting downloads for iPads and other devices.
Danny: We plan on submitting each book to publishers once the individual web runs complete. Since there is a pretty good chance we will have to take it down from the web if it gets picked up by a publisher, we want to make sure we don’t have to do so before our current readers are able to finish the book online.

Do you think the internet has been a good thing for artists and comics in general?
Brian: I think it’s been good, especially for the self-publisher/indie crowd. It’s opened up a way to get our work out there and promote for very little money . Of course, since anyone can (and does) put work out there, you’ve got a lot of noise of compete with. The most challenging thing is marketing…trying to get people to invest their time into reading your work when there are so many other options.
Danny: Absolutely. Thanks to the Internet we’ve been able to have our work seen in areas that we wouldn’t have had a chance to reach otherwise. While the bulk of our hits come from within North America, we also have followers throughout Europe and Australia as well as a handful in Africa, Asia, and South America. We’re still working on breaking into Antarctica.

Did you base Michael Thomas (the lead character in vex, top pic) on anyone you know?
Brian: Not exactly. To me he’s more of an amalgamation of different people and things I saw during my brief stint as a high school history teacher.
Danny: As Brian said, Michael Thomas isn’t based on any one person. He’s more of a compilation of a lot of people we’ve each observed throughout life. The “jock” thing was just one of those stereotypes that worked for the purpose of telling the story. For the most part, I didn’t really have issues with the jocks in high school. I had some buddies on the basketball and football teams. But I can definitely see some similarities between Michael Thomas and some of the soccer jocks in high school.

Deputy Witch is still quite new. How far ahead do you work and do you know how it will all end yet?

Brian: We’re about a month ahead, maybe a little more, as far as pages go, but we’ve mapped out the entire story. All the acts and chapters and key events are there, it’s just a matter of getting the pages produced. With Vex we had the whole book done before putting it online, having Deputy Witch on a schedule forces us to keep up a certain production rate.
Danny: We are currently roughly eight pages ahead of what is online as far as completed pages go. We know exactly how Deputy Witch will end as well as the events that will take place to get to us that end. Every piece of the story that we write is approached from a standpoint of how it will get from one point in our outline to the next as well as to our end game..

What’s coming up, do you have any more comics / ideas in the pipeline?
Brian: We have ideas for quite a few books. We know which two will be next, we’ll just need to see which ones after that look like they’re fleshed out enough to be next in line. Basically we’ve got enough to keep us going for the next 5 or 6 years. The goal is to do at least one a year.
Danny: We maintain a list of about a dozen ideas for potential future stories. As Brian said, we already know what our next two stories are going to be and have already begun talking some of the details.

Look out for more from Brian and Danny in the future. Here are the links to their current stories.
Vex and Deputy Witch
Word of advice if you start reading, start from the beginning… and Enjoy!
All images © copyright Mental Cat productions 2010

Flush the Fashion

Editor of Flush the Fashion and Flush Magazine. I love music, art, film, travel, food, tech and cars. Basically, everything this site is about.

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