Talking About Art and Anti-Heroes with Nate Stockman

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Travis Ellisor writes;

I first discovered Nate Stockman’s art when another artist posted a link to his work online. I immediately took a liking to his style and when I found out that he was a fellow Legion of Super-Heroes fan, I knew that we would be friends. I’ve watched Nate’s skills grow tremendously over the past few years, and I am extremely pleased to see him finally getting some much-deserved recognition. I asked Nate to answer a few questions for Bleeding Cool about his art, his love of comics, and his new series: Anti-Hero.

UntitledSo Nate, let’s start off with the same question that I ask everyone – how did you get into comics?

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back is reading Asterix and Tintin albums. I’d get them read to me at night and eventually learned to read them myself. I definitely didn’t appreciate how fantastic they were at the time but they made a lasting impression, so I guess that they must have drilled their way in. I think that those comics cemented by basic love of reading words and pictures together.

The first American comics that I can remember reading were English reprints of Spider-Man. I think that it was a bootleg VHS of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends that introduced me to the character, so when I saw him on the newsstands I knew who he was. It was around the time of the death of Harry Osborn and I just devoured it. To this day I still think that Sal Buscema draws the best Spidey! After that it was a slippery slope into X-men land. With the cartoon starting up and my interest in the Spidey reprints it was only a matter of time before I found a comic store. I came out with three issues of the Jim Lee X-Men relaunch and that was pretty much the start of a lifelong addiction.

   Stockman Interview Art 07    Oh man that run by Sal Buscema and J. M. DeMatteis on Spider-Man is one of my favorites. And X-Men is what really made me a true comics fan.

Anyway, when did you start drawing? And what kind of art training have you received?

I can’t remember ever not drawing. All the time at home or anytime I went visiting anyone I always had a sketchpad and a pencil. My family was always very encouraging, too, which definitely helped. I always had plenty of art supplies at hand! In terms of formal education, I did three years of Animation which was a blast. The studio environment really pushes you to improve. The workload was always really heavy in the course, too, so you learn to get fast!

In hindsight, that course was a brilliant learning experience for comics. You get to understand the importance of storytelling in particular. In animation, you have to learn how to get across what the audience needs to know in as simple and understandable way as possible. Thats why subtlety can be hard to do in cartoons. If someone is being sneaky, you have to exaggerate their sneakiness or the audience may miss it! I find that this applies to comics, too. In comics, you don’t have the benefit of a score to help set the tone or to let you know that someone is a baddie so you end up making sure that the reader knows what’s up through similar exaggerations. (A good colour artist is really monumental in helping with mood, tone, etc. too but not all comics are in colour!)

The beStockman Interview Art 04st ‘training” I received, though, is just the standard cop-out answer of “practice”. If you draw for five hours a day, EVERY day, you’re going to get better. People can be naturally talented but really lazy. It’s the person who really puts in the extra effort that will see the better long-term results. I’m starting to sound like some motivational speaker now. “Just believe in yourself and reach for the stars, kids!”

Look at you, dropping some wisdom on us with that answer! Ha!

Okay, who and what are your major art influences?

Ha, I really don’t feel qualified to be dropping any sort of wisdom at this stage. Any advice or anything I give should come with a little “terms and conditions apply” at the bottom. I’m really just figuring things out myself as I go.

The biggest influences I can think of that came from comics would be the guys I was exposed to early on. I mentioned Sal Buscema before. I also remember reading another reprint with a Hulk/Spidey story drawn by Michael Golden that really stood out. Spider-Man had the flu in the story and the body language Golden used was so good I can still remember panels even though its been many years since I read it last. Then people like Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen as I started to really collect.

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I met John McCrea when I was about 10 at a local cartoon art festival and his stuff just floored me. He was drawing The Demon at the time and I remember him being really friendly and patient with me as I followed him around asking him stupid questions about  comics. To this day he’s still one of my favourite artists and his work on Mars Attacks for ID

 

W is some of his strongest stuff to date.

While I can appreciate tons of different styles of art in comics, I’m really drawn to a certain “type” for lack of a better word. I love artists that can mix fluid action with great acting and who have a really distinct look to their characters. Guys like McCrea, Olivier Coipel, Stuart Immonen, Jason Pearson, Doug Mahnke, Rafael Albuquerque, Ryan Ottley. The list could go on and on . . .

Stockman Interview Art 06In my teens, I got on a big Manga kick for a while. I never went in too deep so it was just the classics like Akira or Ghost in the Shell, etc. But I loved what I saw. Akira stands out as one of my favourite movies. Its just incredible on every level. I loved some Dragonball Z after school too! I think thats where my love of drawing people standing around shouting comes from.

John McCrea’s runs on Demon and Hitman are two of my favorite runs in comics. He’s incredible.

Yeah, his Hitman run is one of my favourite runs of all time. I’m glad DC got round to finishing off the trades. They’ve got pride of place on my bookshelf now!

 

Now back to you – tell us about your first comics gig and how you got the job.

 

My first gig was a short story in an anthology called “Pulp Girls” published by Super Real Graphics. It was drawing a character called the Swiss Army Woman. It was a lot of fun. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing but it was cool seeing my stuff in print at the end of it. Like 99% of my gigs it came through my deviantart page.

Stockman Interview Art 09You’ve had a few more small gigs as well, but now you’re helping to launch a new series at MonkeyBrain Comics with Jay Faerber. What can you tell us about Anti-Hero?

Anti-Hero is Jay combining his love of superheroes and crime into one neat package. The basic premise is “What would happen if a low level criminal finds out the secret identity of a prominent superhero?”. I think that with Jay’s track record with books like Dynamo 5, Near Death and Point of Impact, you know that the story will be compelling. The story is told in short bursts in a pulp style with some great mini-cliffhangers in there. There’s a lot packed into each issue so I hope that readers will be satisfied with each installment and come back to find out what happens next.

Paul Little, the colourist for the series, recommended me for the job. I’ve worked with Paul  on various pitches and projects over the past few years and I really consider him to be one of the best in the business. Check out his work on “I Love Trouble” from Image, “Five Weapons” from Shadowline and tons of other books to see for yourself. I also want to mention Charles Pritchett who does fantastic work on the lettering and Tim Daniel who designed a great pulp style cover treatment for the book.

Stockman Interview Art 08It’s been a huge amount of fun designing the book from the ground up. The story is set in the fictitious Rainier City, Which Jay wanted to have more of an industrial feel, rather than be a Metropolis-esque towering skyscraper-type city. There are several local heroes and villains that appear in the book, so there was a lot of design work involved in bringing these characters to the page. Jay has a good idea of what he wants to see in terms of costuming, etc. So that’s always helpful when you have a clear direction to work towards.

I’m really excited to see the book get out there now. I’m very pleased to be published by MonkeyBrain. Chris Roberson and Allison Baker have been putting out some really high quality work there and the company has been getting a lot of positive press because of it. The platform they offer with MonkeyBrain is a great way to experiment with the length and format of a book and I think that as a publisher they’ll see a lot of growth in their line  as more and more creators want to work with them.

Stockman Interview Art 13Oh, I’ve been a fan of Jay’s since his New Warriors relaunch many years ago. He’s a very talented guy. And Paul is a fantastic colorist and I’m glad he helped bring you onto this book.

So, tell us all about your work process on an issue of Anti-Hero.

The work process is pretty standard, I guess. Jay sends me a full script with page by page panel breakdowns with an indication of important panels, etc., to focus on or make prominent. There’s the occasional action scene where Jay will do it Marvel style but for the most part it’s a pretty tight script. He’s great about being open to suggestions on layouts or moving things around or adding in a panel here or there. I’ve found that the best gigs are the ones where you feel part of the process rather than a cog in the machine. I’ve been very fortunate so far to be made to feel that I can have genuine input on a lot of projects and commission work. Not that all that input is good, mind, but it’s nice to be heard and humoured a bit. Haha!

Stockman Interview Art 10 Anyway, once I read through the script a few times I’ll research a bit for locations or background elements. From there I do rough layouts to run by Jay. There’s usually a bit of back and forth, tweaking a few panels or elements here and there. Then once I get the go  ahead, I’ll start the pencilling. Since I ink myself, my pencils are pretty loose. I’ve grown a lot fonder of inking, the more of it I do. I used to be terrified of it when I started out, but now it’s one of my favourite parts! Once the inks are done and signed off on, I’ll send them on to Paul and Charles who complete the page.

Like most artists, I’m always my own harshest critic. I find that a good colour artist and letterer can change the page enough for me to be able to appreciate it a lot more than if it was just my lines. Its a real buzz to see a finished comic page come from your lineart. And working with other talented creators definitely gives you the drive to try and improve to keep up!

What type of art tools do you prefer to use?

Stockman Interview Art 11 I’m waiting for someone to invent some sort of brain-draw software that allows me to think pages into existence. I’ll happily get a usb port drilled into my head when that day comes (come on already Japan!). Until then, I have to stick to more traditional methods. I usually pencil with a B. Then ink with various sized Faber Castell Pitt pens and Zebra brush pens. I’ll generally use anything that can get the job done, though. I’ll happily use Sharpie pens and markers. I’ll almost always end up doing some photoshop adjustments on sequential work. Just because there’s always something wonky that needs a fix.

I think that Photoshop has saved many a wonky page in recent years. Now I know what you work with, but what do you want to work on? In other words, what comics characters (besides your own) would you like to work on one day?

Stockman Interview Art 12I think like a lot of creators I have a real soft spot for all the stuff I liked growing up. So my dream jobs would all revolve around that mostly. I’d love to draw Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and probably most of all I’d love a crack at the Legion of Super-Heroes someday. I’m still a ways off from the level I’d have to be at to draw these guys of course but it’s a great little motivator to think that someday it could be possible”

You’ve got a great attitude, Nate and we wish you the best!

You can check out more of Nate’s art at his deviantArt page and you can follow him on Twitter. Also be sure to go buy Anti-Hero!