Artist Interview with The Artist J

Hi folks, back with another one! This week, I figured I’d share this little interview I got to have with this comic creator, The Artist J. He’s got a book out called Superhero University, and his artwork on the project, along with the other work he’s done, was just so dope, I HAD to do an interview. Hoping to put out a few more of these, and I hope y’all enjoy!

Me: “So, tell us about Superhero University and your time drawing for that comic series.”

Superhero University

J: “How I got that job is actually a really awesome story. Last year I was at a point were I was barely getting any commissions, and by barely, I mean none. I wasn’t getting any. So I went outside one night and prayed about it. I’m a Christian, and I told God that I felt like He called me to be artist, so if He had then I could really use some commissions to supply me with income. Literally the next day the author contacted me, and said he thought my art would be perfect for a big project he was doing called Superhero University. He asked me to be on board, and seeing as how God answered my prayer, I said ‘Yeah!’

His book is a 43 lesson manual on how to become a superhero. He hired me to create a comic section to go along with each lesson he wrote. The author is really cool and was super easy to work with. It was a blast because he gave me free reign! So I got to create and design all the characters, add in fight scenes (which are my specialty,) and write the comic’s story just as long as it tied into what the lessons he wrote were about. It took about 6 months to finish, and I did all the pencils, inks, colors, and lettering myself. I ended up doing a 110 comic pages I think, along with the cover and few other things. It was definitely a fun project that God used to help me out and hopefully the author and others. Since then I’ve have had constant commissions!”

The Bible Goes Hard

Me: “Where would you say your inspiration comes from?”

J: “So many different things and so many other artist! My older brother inspired me to start drawing in the first place. He would draw all the time, so I just followed his example and started drawing whenever I had the chance. Also just having a ton of stories in my head that I need to get out and put on paper so others can see them and enjoy them. Though my main inspiration to draw just comes from being able to. God has given me a talent for it and I love using it and want to do it, for His glory and to support myself financially at the same time. From there I would just say probably from watching cartoons and anime to reading comics and manga growing up is where most of the things I’m inspired to draw came from.”

Anybody Can Be Super

Me: “So would you saw your inspiration has also influenced your art style?”

J: “Well, I’ve found my own art style in mixing elements from both Western comics and anime style. My style is a unique mixture of both, and those elements were influenced by certain artists I’ve admired in comics, like Jim Lee and Joe Madureira, or a particular way that I liked how something was drawn in specific anime, like Dragon Ball Z. I was able to take those things I’ve learned by studying those artist and combine them into my own art style! I still do that, I don’t really change the general look of my art style now, but I still implement how things are drawn from other artist that I admire into my own style. There’s always room for improvement, and I’m always looking to get better!”

Spawn – Superhero for the Metal Fans

Me: “Do you have a certain creative process that you tap into to begin a project?”

J: “I’ve never been much of a planner. I’m about as laid back as they come, so my process is usually just thinking of a cool concept for a storyline or drawing, visualizing it in my head and being like “yeah, I think that would be cool. Time to make it happen!” I’m a simple guy! Haha! I do always start with a very loosely drawn rough sketch, just to get some poses down of what I thinking, and then begin drawing over that with the actual outline.”

Filling A Manga-Shaped Hole in my Heart

Me: “Laid back gets the job done, folks, y’all heard it here first! Any dream job you want to land as an artist?”

J: “I feel like most comic book artist’s dream job is usually to draw interior pages for Marvel or DC, but that’s not me. I’ve always wanted to bring out my own stories. Unless it’s drawing interior pages for one of my own comics that I’m trying to bring out, I actually prefer to do character designs and the comic covers for other people way more than drawing interior pages. So my dream job is literally to just be able to create and sell my own comics with original stories and characters I’ve made that people will love, and hopefully want to keep reading about. So I guess in short my dream job is to be a comic cover artist and to keep creating original comics of my own.”

Me: “Oh, that’s the dream, I feel that on a deep level. Here’s a heavy one; Where would you want to see comics go in the next few years in terms of direction?”

J: “Wow, that’s a tough one. Comic industry aside, all I know is the direction that I want my comics to go in. My goal is to provide good clean comics that everyone can read while still being action packed with interesting stories and characters to follow along with. My main focus has always been on the action and providing high quality fight scenes. To be honest, I’ve always been a little disappointed in Western comics fight scenes. I’ve always found them to be choppy and hard to follow exactly what’s going on. It’s more like random punch here, then random kick here in this next panel, with no cohesiveness between them. My mission is to make fights that have a fluidity to them. Like, you’re watching the fight play out on the paper as if it you were watching it animated. So that’s the direction I would like to see my comics go at least.”

Oh, how I LOVE sick action. Whether it flows well in comics, or is executed perfectly on screen for TV or film, I love a quality action sequence. Looks like J is the artist to look out for when it comes to the good stuff, am I right folks?

There you have it. A brief one, with more content coming at you soon. Just like J, I’ve got projects under wraps as well, and I’m working on getting them up in the air before announcing anything big. Thank you again, folks. Until next time, stay safe, and stay lovely.

Super-Gods, Sick Mixtapes, and a Surreal Universe: Leaders of the Free World Review (#1 – #2)

If Gods blessed you with powers, would that make you one? Or does that just place you on a tier-level below the source of your abilities? It’s okay, don’t dwell on the existential question for too long, because thankfully we’ve got the answers for you. Hi, folks, and thank you for being patient with this anticipated post (just getting back to the day job grind) and welcome to my first ever Official Stars and Monsters comic review!

I was honored to be offered an opportunity to review the comic series Leaders of the Free World by one of the creative minds behind it, Corey Pruitt (better known as Task on Twitter) and quite frankly, it might have been the one of my most exciting experiences since the initial launch of this blog. Task is not only a comic writer, but also a podcast host on Supersuit Show, but also a major source of influence in the vortex that is the comic twitter community (Spider-Man fans hate Spider-Man, it’s the truth!) Task allowed me to preview his first two issues of his series, drawn by Elijah Johnson (also known as @artbyatlas0 on Twitter), and share some of my thoughts on Leaders of the Free World #1 and #2. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

Leaders of the Free World #1 – “A Surreal World”

I dove right into the first issue with the same initial thought that new readers to any series worry about; “Will I be overwhelmed by the world that was built before me?” I suppose the breakdown of the Free World mythos stems from the origin of the Godsend, a group of super-powered gods who arrived to the planet, each instilling themselves in one nation, and essentially committing to their nation’s image, government policies. In return, the Godsend provided tech and knowledge to help advance the world, which inadvertently birthed a new generation of super-powered beings: the Archetypes, a less powerful group of people who created more conflict than safety in the world. After a war killed a third of the world’s population, the Godsend issued laws to limit an Archetype’s activity to only their respective country. This is the lore of Leaders of the Free World.

This series starts with an excellent brief look at the world’s history in the form of a history class, narrated by Surreal, a teenage Asian-American descendant of the an ancient god known as the Monkey King. He fits every relatable aspect of being a teen whose heritage holds more power than they realize. With great power comes great responsibility, and thankfully, we don’t have another Uncle Ben-esque character to reminds Surreal of that. Instead, he meets Eco, the Son of Gaia, who is a superstar wrestler with abilities drawn from, well, Gaia. When these two characters meet and share scenes together, there’s definitely an undeniable chemistry between the two when it comes to the hilarity in their bantering back and forth, and Eco’s unconditional support towards Surreal. The young Monkey King doesn’t know his own true worth yet, and thankfully, the powerful and wise Eco stands beside him from the very beginning, showing a kind of trust that makes me reminisce about the days when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up in Marvel’s Heroes for Hire series.

“Timber”, Eco’s wrestling signature move. Also named after my dog.

As I continued through the issue, I enjoyed the spotlight on these two characters a lot, while also finding myself more enthralled by the joy in seeing Surreal’s old school hip hop playlist scattered across text-boxes in the comic. It creates an entertainingly new and fun experience in a comic book that feels as authentic as a classic comic series as you go through each panel. It was one of the things I was most excited about discussing with Task. When asked where the inspiration for this came from, Task said, “I always listen to music when I write. So I thought ‘What if each issue had its own soundtrack?’ It’s a way for the reader to see where my headspace was at during the creative process.” Nicely done, Task. We love it.

One of my other favorite story threads in this issue specifically included the introduction of Moonshine, the wildly erratic and drunken female superhero whose abilities appear to rival even Superman. It was just one of the many things I enjoyed in this first issue, and I could easily list more, but I have LOTS more to gush about!

Leaders of the Free World #2 – The Beginning’s of Freedom

Aright folks, this is my favorite issue of the two for sure! In Leaders of the Free World #2, we are introduced to my absolute pairing of characters in this set universe. Like Ying and Yang, we meet Medic and Doctor Seance. Medic is, well…if God was a woman, to put it perfectly. As an angel of war and peace, she’s a balance between life and death. In nothing but merely scrubs, she manages to kick enough ass to make Jessica Jones second guess her career as a comic book badass. Alongside her is Doctor Seance, an evil necromancer whose character visual design homages aspects of Robbie Reyes’s Ghost Rider, with a symbiotic relationship to Medic like that of Venom, and a sinister and calculating villain mind that crosses between Lex Luthor and the Batman Who Laughs. These two characters, joined together by a holy and flaming halo over Medic’s head, embark on a quest to join the other lead heroes as they prepare for a crisis of epic proportions.

This, however, prompted me to ask Task about the bonds between the various characters, like the development between Surreal and Eco, or between Medic and Doctor Seance. Task’s response was, “When I came up with the characters I had to ask myself ‘Who would get along the most? Who would hate each other?’ Surreal and Eco are both mythical beings born into a life that they never asked for. So they relate to each other the most. Medic and Seance have history that will be explored throughout the series. I don’t want to reveal everything now but let’s just say you will be surprised.”

Comics can mend ya heart, kid.

As I continued on in this issue, completely enthralled by the concept of Medic and Doctor Seance (and Surreal’s Mix scattered through this issue as well to help set the tone), we soon learn more about the hardships that some of these characters hold in their personal lives. Medic, being a superhero and all that, is still a medical doctor, and has a duty to both the world she saves and the world she inhabits. When she turns to work from battle, she unfortunately fails to save her patient’s life. She storms out, completely broken, and her coworker consoles her by stating a sad, but accurate fact of life. She says, “You can’t save everyone all the time.” When I read this comic panel, it was then that I knew this was going to continue to become a really powerful story, with a really exceptional writer behind this stunning and beautiful line work. And, just as the moment on the page was beautifully had, it was interrupted by a beautifully nostalgic shot…

*CUE FREEZE FRAME*

FREEZE FRAME!

The story returns to the initial group, with Surreal. Eco, Tech-Neek, and Moonshine briefly meeting, but it’s just as an invasion brews in the sky above them. From that, to their hilarious first encounter with Doctor Seance, we get really funny dialogue, awesome action sequences, and super dope nostalgic homages to things in nature of, say, giant mechas, or Power Rangers, or maybe even Dragon Ball Z, or just plenty of West Coast classics to keep the action seamless like a swift breeze under Surreal’s feet. Another one of my favorite shots out of this back half of this issue is most definitely Eco’s greeting to the invaders, known as the ominous Outreach. We get some top-tier Samoan representation, some more amazing character moments amidst the action, and an epic finale shot that may tease an epic clash between two of the most powerful beings on the team. Both beautiful and strong women, might I add.

One of my last questions, more of a fanboy-gushing moment, was me asking about what could be teased to other fans of this series, whether it be epic shonen-styled fight scenes between certain highly powerful characters, or the brief tease of the mysterious Mr. Excellent. Task answered with, “I’m trying to make this world seem as big and alive that I can. And that there’s more going on than what is happening in the books. Mr. Excellent’s story will lead to another story arch that I am excited to share. And it’s funny how you brought up the fights with Lunar because let’s just say she’s not entirely sold on the idea of this team up yet. Where she comes from she reigns over these beings, not collaborate with them. Issue 3 is on the way folks. Stay tuned.”

Well done, Free World. You have a special place in my love for comics now, and I cannot wait to see what an amazing franchise this becomes soon.

A Cybrogi. That’s it. ‘Nuff Said.

No weekly plugs this week, folks. Not like I usually do, I mean. No, all I want to suggest to my readers is to check out this new comic book ASAP. This is seriously one of the most enjoyable comic reads I’ve had in a very long time, for sure. It’s pretty amazing, and the series is available on Comixology right now, or, if you’d like, you can follow the writer @uptotask, or the artist @artbyatlas0 on Twitter.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Leaders of the Free World #3!

Switchin’ up my outro like I usually do too, folks. This time, I’m quoting Gamer Presidential Candidate, Mr. Ace Watkins.

*ahem*

Not solo; squad.

Fanboy Hour – A Look Back At the Pre-Crisis Multiverse

At the time of this posting, we will be pretty much one week away from the start of the Crisis of Infinite Earths crossover event on the CW network. We’ve got crossovers with the main Arrowverse shows that debuted here; we’ve got Arrow, The FlashSupergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and the newest edition in the lineup, Batwoman. Aside from those five series, we’ve got a tie-in with characters from Black Lightning, along with cameos from other DC tv show properties like Smallville, Birds of Prey, The Flash from the 1990’s, and even big characters debuting, like Kevin Conroy as Batman from the Kingdom Come comic series, Brandon Routh as Superman from his 2006 film (which is also canonically Christopher Reeve’s Superman character and Kingdom Come Superman), with other appearances rumored for the crossover. Some of those names include Lynda Carter and Burt Ward in an undisclosed role, and others that I can’t keep up with because this event is HUGE!

I’ve got my theories and speculations about what we’ll see out of the crossover, and as much as I’d love to go on about those thoughts, that’s not what I’m going to do with this post. That being said, I did make a bingo card in preparation for Crisis with all of my major theories used as the spots. It’s posted on my Tumblr, and y’all can check it out here!

Now, without further ado, let’s get caught up on these shows and see where we’re going from here on out! SPOILERS follow!

We’re, uh, actually skipping  DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It premieres after Crisis, so…

“Better, Gayer and Edgier Than Batman”

Let’s start with Batwoman! It debuted this year, which I was mega excited for because IT WAS SO DOPE TO GET THE TEASE FROM THE ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER OMFG! There was a lot of backlash for Ruby Rose being cast as, like, the one lesbian in Hollywood, which I would’ve been more upset about if I hadn’t seen her kick ass in John Wick. My biggest thing when it comes to action series is having the actors and actresses be bold enough to pull off the stunts on their own without stunt doubles. Not that it’s bad to use doubles, but I’m just more impressed as shows having their own actors do stunts. That being said, the stunts on this show aren’t the most exciting, but it’s a good thing the show has been making up for it with Rose just KILLING it as Kate Kane. I had skepticisms about the villain, but Alice proved to be a really good arch enemy for Batwoman, so I’m down with it. The will-they-won’t-they between Kate and her ex is okay, but like, I’m waiting to get past that and for Kate to find real potential love next season or something. The writing has been really good with Caroline Dries from The Vampire Diaries working on the series. We’ve got a good Batwoman adaptation, solid drama, and so much queer representation to make my recently out-of-the-closet queer heart melt. Love the series. Can’t wait for post-Crisis Batwoman to do some gnarly things and expand on their lineup. I’d love to see Red Hood, Orphan, or even Bluebird show up. Not much else to say, considering this series JUST debuted with its first season. The other shows have a LOT more to go through.

“PANTS!”

Let’s go to Supergirl, now! We’re five seasons in, having reached episode 5×08, right before Part 1 of the Crisis starts. At this point, we went from an entirely different network version of the show, having started on NBC, with massively different set pieces, cast and crew, and writers doing different things. The show moving to the CW left us with a loss of, who I thought was a dope villain, Maxwell Lord, along with gorgeous characters like Lucy Lane, and the enigmatic Cat Grant. In that move, we did happen to gain OTHER set pieces, new cast and crew, and, like, OTHER writers. From the purest origin story we could get for Kara, to the cutest queer coming out arc for Alex, to gaining the Legion of Super-Heroes (I would’ve loved, like, Lightnig Lad and Timberwolf and Triplet, but…we got Brainiac 5 and Saturn-Girl, so we’ll take the dub where we can). Villains like Manchester Black, Reign, and Lex Luthor came around, and then we’ve got MY personal favorites, Lena Luthor and Nia Nall. 

Out of all of the arcs we’ve gotten during these seasons, I’d have to say season four was my favorite. We didn’t have Mon-El being trash (yeah, I didn’t like him at all), we got our lovely trans representation debut in Nia, who was the purest little bean of a character when she debuted, to someone who has kicked ass alongside our heroes, but for some reason has been a little absent in our most recent episode, and I really don’t remember why. The storyline between Kara and Lena really got amped up after season four, going from acquaintances to best friends to PRACTICALLY GIRLFRIENDS, to this seemingly broken relationship. This is the one thing that keeps drawing me back to the show, and I would love to keep them at the core. Manhunter stays being a cool father figure, but Martian Manhunter’s storylines are less exciting now that he’s been focused on this random brother that Monitor brought back. With that arc coming to a close, we can prepare for Supergirl’s involvement in Crisis, bringing in Superman and Lois Lane, along with their baby AND LEX LUTHOR AGAIN! Can’t wait for where the show goes post-Crisis. I don’t know if they’ll continue this Leviathan arc, which aired around the time that Event Leviathan was being released by DC. It was a conspiracy espionage with a masked villain who was taking down the government to basically build a new world order, because according to Leviathan, everyone else has been saving the world wrong. I was expecting season five’s arc to go down that route, but it’s been…NOT that. We got an Earth Bender from Avatar trying to kill Supergirl, and it’s been okay, but I’m hoping that isn’t the villain post-Crisis. Hopefully we’ll drop the queerbaiting subtext between Kara and Lena, and just LET OUR BABIES BE HAPPY. That’s all I want, is for the two of them to be happy.

Image result for the flash season 6 poster

“Season 6 of ‘Monster of the Week’ ft. Preparations for Crisis”

We are six seasons in for The Flash, caught up on 6×08 right before Crisis, and we’ve gone FAR! I’m talking naive little me watching Arrow’s second season and thinking, “gee, Barry Allen might be a side character on Arrow’s next season” to the first Arrowverse spin-off debuting and teasing Crisis on its premiere. From that point, we got one of the best first seasons of an Arrowverse show, with Reverse-Flash posing as one of the dopest villains on the show, with season two pushing epic boundaries with the Multiverse being introduced. Season three debuted Flashpoint, one of the things I was most hype about, but it being an episode long was the biggest buzzkill. It was a little too dark and depressing, so it’s sort of part of this repressed part of my mind. Season four was when they said, “gee, let’s get funny again,” and became borderline tacky in some instances. Ralph Dibny, the funnier guy, debuted at this point, and the tone of the series shifted dramatically. The villains, in all honesty, started absolutely sucking from this point onward.

The show kept its “Monster of the Week” formula intact, but with its villains no longer being speedsters, after everyone got annoyed with season three’s Savitar disaster. We had an uber-smart handicapped technophobe, an awfully voiced and unthreatening meta-serial killer (and his future niece or whatever, which nobody cared for), and this season’s villain. Now, what I love about the recent seasons is that they took more liberty pulling from the Rebirth canon, similarly to Supergirl pulling from Event Leviathan. We had Godspeed make an appearance (although it was definitely way more lackluster than it should’ve been), and Bloodwork show up as this season’s main villain. I’ll be honest, his gimmick makes sense, being a villain who offers immortality to Barry to help survive Crisis. It would’ve made sense for last season’s Cicada to be immortal, but what do I know? That being said, Bloodwork’s thing was basically just spreading a bad zombie infection. Like it wasn’t all that complicated, but it wasn’t interesting at all. Barry has a mind trip when he’s infected, and with Dark Flash showing up, it was just gunk in his mouth. Like, I really wanted to like this villain, and this whole season, but it was mostly just “fight a villain while we think about Crisis” but not really do anything about Crisis. I guess that’s the point though, with Barry having to accept his fate of dying in Crisis. I really hope that we don’t see Bloodwork past the first half of this season. I say “first half,” because once Crisis is done, I’m expecting a major shift in everything going on throughout a majority of the shows, especially with The Flash. It’ll be the first time we see a future past the looming headline that’s been haunting Barry since the premiere, and hopefully cool things in terms of structure will go down. 

“Every Mission Has An End”

That leaves us with Arrow. The Big Papa of the Arrowverse, having just aired 8×07. Each episode this last season was meant to be an homage to the series as a whole, with each episode being reminiscent of its corresponding season. We got through seven episodes, seven seasons, of the best and worst of the Arrowverse, from seasons one and two being Arrow’s peak, with it dying down during season three and four, and the remainder of the series having both highs and lows. Season five ended the five-year story of Olive being on the island and becoming the Arrow, only for those flashbacks to become super convoluted, so, you know, whatever. After that, season six became a lot more grounded and ended with a big gamechanger: Oliver outing himself as the Green Arrow. Season seven led to a dope prison arc, with more Rebirth villains coming in, like the Ninth Circle, and the Longbow Hunters debuting Silencer.

Again, highs and lows. Ricardo Diaz was, like, cool for being the first villain to survive a season and continue being a villain, but he got old really quick. Emiko Queen was also really dope, but her whole “villain-or-hero” thing was just as annoying as it was with Laurel from Earth-2. Yeah, Earth-2 Laurel’s “villain-or-hero” thing was ALSO one of the major lows of the show. It lasted, like, three seasons? I don’t know. Hated it. Hated Lance’s off-screen death, Ragman disappearing, Felicity growing from adorable to annoying, and blue balls (or, green balls) with all of the Green Lantern references for Diggle. But we got highs, like the 150th episode of Arrow being a really dope documentary styled episode, the flash forwards giving us baby Mia and William being the best siblings ever, and more ROY HARPER, the love of my life! I’ll admit, this last episode really chopped his arm off, which hurt SO much, but like, Roy has always been written as the DC character to be hurt the most, next to Wally (who is annoyingly absent from The Flash right now. We got Roy back before Crisis, why couldn’t we get Wally? Shame the writers don’t know what to do with him). Anyway, we had a very good run anyway. Stephen Amell killed it as Oliver Queen this season, with the entirety of the season being a big buildup for Crisis, while it also sort of being Oliver’s internal battle with himself, as he was sort of in denial about dying. We got fan favorites that came back for the final season, from the Merlyns to Moira and Thea, Adrian Chase and the OG Deathstroke (no Nyssa or Ragman or Artemis, also mad about those). But in terms of the final season wrapping things up, it did so in a way that made it feel like an entirely new show, both fresh and familiar for Arrow fans. It’s been great, honestly. Loved it.

And with that, you have caught yourselves up on the Arrowverse with me, and are a week away from witnessing one of the biggest events to happen with DC. I’m talking altering the canon of not ONLY the CW shows, but shows and films and canons that have been around for decades and have just now debuted. We are IN FOR A REAL TREAT, FOLKS! Get ready.

Stay Lovely – ya boy